Skip to main content

Full text of "Our southern highlanders; a narrative of adventure in the southern Appalachians and a study of the life among the mountaineers"

See other formats






MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 





A Narrative of Adventure in the 
Southern Appalachians and a Study 
of Life Among the Mountaineers 


Author of "The Book of Camping and Woodcraft," "Camp 
Cookery," "Sporting Firearms," Etc. 



Copyright, 1913 and 1922, 

Reprinted 1921. New and rerised 
edition with added ctiapters, 1922 





I. "Something Hidden; Go and Find It" 

II. "The Back of Beyond" . 

III. The Great Smoky Mountains . 

IV. A Bear Hunt in the Smokies . 
V. Moonshine Land 

VI. Ways That Are Dark .... 

VII. A Leaf from the Past . 

VIII. "Blockaders" and "The Revenue" 

IX. The Snake-Stick Man 

X. A Raid into the Sugarlands . 

XI, The Killing of Hol Rose . 

XII. The Outlander and the Native 

XIII. The People of the Hills . 

XIV. The Land of Do Without . 
XV. Home Folks and Neighbor People 

XVI. The Mountain Dialect . 

XVII. The Law of the Wilderness . 

XVIII. The Blood-Feud 

XIX. Who Are the Mountaineers? . 

XX. "When the Sleeper Wakes" . 




In the Great Smoky Mountains .... Frontispiece 


Map of Appalachia 8 

The author's first camp in the Smokies . . . . i6 

The old copper mine 24 

Cabin on the Little Fork of Sugar Fork of Hazel 

Creek, where the author lived alone for three years 32 

At the post-office 40 

A tub-mill 48 

A family of pioneers in the 20th century .... 56 

The schoolhouse 64 

Scouting in the laurel 72 

The Spencer Place, near Thunderhead Mountain . . 80 

Skinning a frozen bear 88 

"By and by up they came, carrying the bear" ... 96 

A home-made bear trap 104 

Moonshine still-house hidden in the laurel . . .112 

Moonshine still in full operation 120 

Corn mill and blacksmith's forge 136 

A "rock house" in moonshine land 152 



Mr. Quick, and one of his hobbies 184 

Buck's exit 192 

"Court week" at Bryson City, N. C 208 

"The torrent dashed over ledges and boulders" . .216 

One of the Chimney Tops 224^ 

A hunter's cabin 240" 

Splitting clapboards 256' 

A natural "bald" 272 

"She knows no other lot" 288 

A mountain home 304 

"Be it ever so humble — " 320 

"Come in and rest" 336 

The Alum Cave, Great Smoky Mountains . . . .352 

"Making 'lasses" 368' 

"Let the women do the work" 384 

In the valley 400 


Nine years have passed since this book first 
came from the press. My log cabin on 
the Little Fork of Sugar Fork has fallen 
in ruin. The great forest wherein it nestled is 
falling, too, before the loggers' steel. A rail- 
road has pierced the wilderness. A graded 
highway crosses the county. There are mill 
towns where newcomers dwell. An aeroplane 
has passed over the county seat. Mountain boys 
are listening, through instruments of their own 
construction, to concerts played a thousand 
miles away. 

We have had the war. We are having an at- 
tempt at prohibition. Even in farthest Appa- 
lachia people realize that the world has been 
upset, and that old ways, old notions, old con- 
victions perhaps, must give place to new ones. 

And yet, if one strolling along our new Ashe- 
ville-to-Atlanta highway should step aside at 
the first brook crossing, turn "up the branch," 
and follow the rough by-road that steeply as- 
cends the glen, he would come presently to a 


log cabin where time still lingers a century be- 
lated. The old-fashioned hospitality would be 
offered him with right good will. And if he 
tarried (who would not?) he would observe 
something of the pioneer life this book de- 
scribes. They die hard, those old ways, in the 
mountains. Some of them were good ways, too. 
They were picturesque, at least. 

I have tried to give a true picture of life 
among the southern mountaineers, as I have 
found it during eighteen years of intimate as- 
sociation with them. This book deals with the 
mass of the mountain people. It is not con- 
cerned with the relatively few townsmen, and 
prosperous valley farmers, who owe to outside 
influences all that distinguishes them from their 
back-country kinsmen. The real mountaineers 
are the multitude of little farmers living up the 
branches and on the steep hillsides, away from 
the main-traveled roads, who have been shaped 
by their own environment. They are the ones 
who interest the reading public; and this is as 
it should be; for they are original, they are 

No one book can give a complete survey of 
mountain life in all its aspects. Much must 
be left out. I have chosen to write about those 
features that seemed to me most picturesque. 


The narrative is to be taken literally. There is 
not a line of fiction or exaggeration in it. 

Our Southern Highlanders was first published 
in 1913. It has had several printings in the 
original form. In the present edition I have 
corrected errors of the press, and one or two of 
my own, but otherwise no alteration has been 
made of the text. I have continued the story of 
moonshining to the present day, and have added 
three new chapters: The Snake-Stick Man, 
A Raid into the Sugarlands, and The Killing of 
Hoi Rose. 

Most of the illustrations in this edition are 
new, some of them taken by myself, others by 
friends who generously let me select specimens 
of their work with the camera here in the Great 
Smoky Mountains. I am particularly indebted, 
for such courtesies, to Francis B. Laney, of the 
U. S. Geological Survey; Professor S. H. Es- 
sary, of the University of Tennessee; Paul M. 
Fink, of Jonesboro, Tenn.; and John Ogden 
Morrell, of Knoxville. 

Some parts of this book originally appeared in 
Outing and All Outdoors. 

Bryson City, N. C. HORACE KepharT. 

April, 1922. 

^ •' /-... , •=• .--r_^..,; '■-•:•■ ;-- .»•- / --.. :::' i" :t, 

r- _^- j;^- 


S()rTlIJ:i{X API'AI.ACIIIAX 1?K(H().\. 

, -„ ', 

SI, VM,., II, l,s.r.lul..i, .1 ll„ n, „„l ,M, 

; . *"■," 

^ 4 





N one of Poe's minor tales, written in 1845, 
there is a vague allusion to wild mountains 
in western Virginia " tenanted by fierce and 
uncouth races of men." This, so far as I know, 
was the first reference in literature to our South- 
ern mountaineers, and it stood as their only 
characterization until Miss Murfree ("Charles 
Egbert Craddock") began her stories of the 
Cumberland hills. 

Tim.e and retouching have done little to soften 
our Highlander's portrait. Among reading peo- 
ple generally. South as well as North, to name 
him is to conjure up a tall, slouching figure In 
homespun, who carries a rifle as habitually as 
he does his hat, and who may tilt its muzzle 
toward a stranger before addressing him, the 

form of salutation being: 



"Stopthar! Whut's you-unses name? Whar's 
you-uns a-goin' ter? " 

Let us admit that there is just enough truth in 
this caricature to give it a point that will stick. 
Our typical mountaineer is lank, he is always 
unkempt, he is fond of toting a gun on his shoul- 
der, and his curiosity about a stranger's name 
and business is promptly, though politely, out- 
spoken. For the rest, he is a man of mystery. 
The great world outside his mountains knows 
almost as little about him as he does of it; and 
that is little indeed. News in order to reach 
him must be of such widespread interest as fairly 
to fall from heaven; correspondingly, scarce any 
incidents of mountain life will leak out uniess 
they be of sensational nature, such as the shoot- 
ing of a revenue officer in Carolina, the massacre 
of a Virginia court, or the outbreak of another 
feud in " bloody Breathitt." And so, from the 
grim sameness of such reports, the world infers 
that battle, murder, and sudden death are com- 
monplaces in Appalachia. 

To be sure, in Miss Murfree's novels, as in 
those of John Fox, Jr., and of Alice MacGowan, 
we do meet characters more genial than feudists 
and illicit distillers ; none the less, when we have 
closed the book, who is it that stands out clearest 
as type and pattern of the mountaineer? Is it 


not he of the long rifle and peremptory chal- 
lenge? And whether this be because he gets 
most of the limelight, or because we have a fur- 
tive liking for that sort of thing (on paper), or 
whether the armed outlaw be indeed a genuine 
protagonist — in any case, the Appalachian peo- 
ple remain in public estimation to-day, as Poe 
judged them, an uncouth and fierce race of 
men, inhabiting a wild mountain region little 

The Southern highlands themselves are a 
mysterious realm. When I prepared, in 1904, 
for my first sojourn in the Great Smoky 
Mountains, which form the master chain 
of the Appalachian system, I could find 
in no library a guide to that region. The most 
diligent research failed to discover so much as 
a magazine article, written within this genera- 
tion, that described the land and its people. 
Nay, there was not even a novel or a story that 
showed intimate local knowledge. Had I been 
going to Teneriffe or Timbuctu, the libraries 
would have furnished information a-plenty; but 
about this housetop of eastern America they 
were strangely silent; it was terra incognita. 

On the map I could see that the Southern 
Appalachians cover an area much larger than 
New England, and that they are nearer the 


center of our population than any other moun- 
tains that deserve the name. Why, then, so little 
known? Quaintly there came to mind those 
lines familiar to my boyhood: "Get you up 
this way southward, and go up into the moun- 
tain ; and see the land, what it is ; and the people 
that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or 
weak, few or many; and what the land is that 
they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and 
what cities they be that they dwell in, whether 
in tents, or in strongholds; and what the land 
is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be 
vvood therein or not." 

In that dustiest room of a great library where 
" pub. docs." are stored, I unearthed a govern- 
ment report on forestry that gave, at last, a clear 
idea of the lay of the land. And here was news. 
We are wont to think of the South as a low 
country with sultry climate; yet its mountain 
chains stretch uninterruptedly southwestward 
from Virginia to Alabama, 650 miles in an air 
line. They spread over parts of eight contigu- 
ous States, and cover an area somewhat larger 
than England and Scotland, or about the same 
as that of the Alps. In short, the greatest moun- 
tain system of eastern America is massed in our 
Southland. In its upper zone one sleeps under 
blankets the year round. 


In all the region north of Virginia and east of 
the Black Hills of Dakota there is but one sum- 
mit (Mount Washington, in New Hampshire) 
that reaches 6,000 feet above sea level, and there 
are only a dozen others that exceed 5,000 feet. 
By contrast, south of the Potomac there are 
forty-six peaks, and forty-one miles of dividing 
ridges, that rise above 6,000 feet, besides 288 
mountains and some 300 miles of divide that 
stand more than 5,000 feet above the sea. In 
North Carolina alone the mountains cover 6,000 
square miles, with an average elevation of 2,700 
feet, and with twenty-one peaks that overtop 
Mount Washington. 

I repeated to myself: "Why, then, so little 
known ? " The Alps and the Rockies, the Pyren- 
nees and the Harz are more familiar to the 
American people, in print and picture, if not by 
actual visit, than are the Black, the Balsam, and 
the Great Smoky Mountains. It is true that 
summer tourists flock to Asheville and Toxaway, 
Linville and Highlands, passing their time at 
modern hotels and motoring along a few maca- 
damed roads, but what do they see of the billowy 
wilderness that conceals most of the native 
homes? Glimpses from afar. What do they 
learn of the real mountaineer? Hearsay. For, 
mark you, nine-tenths of the Appalachian popu- 


lation are a sequestered folk. The typical, the 
average mountain man prefers his native hills 
and his primitive ancient ways. 

We read more and talk more about the Fili- 
pinos, see more of the Chinese and the Syrians, 
than of these three million next-door Americans 
who are of colonial ancestry and mostly of Brit- 
ish stock. New York, we say, is a cosmopoli- 
tan city; more Irish than in Dublin, more Ger- 
mans than in Munich, more Italians than in 
Rome, more Jews than in nine Jerusalems; but 
how many New Yorkers ever saw a Southern 
mountaineer? I am sure that a party of hills- 
men fresh from the back settlements of the Una- 
kas, if dropped on the streets of any large city 
in the Union, and left to their ov/n guidance, 
would stir up more comment (and probably 
more trouble) than would a similar body of 
whites from any other quarter of the earth; and 
yet this same odd people is more purely bred 
from old American stock than any other element 
of our population that occupies, by itself, sc 
great a territory. 

The mountaineers of the South are marked 
apart from all other folks by dialect, by cus- 
toms, by character, by self-conscious isolation. 
So true is this that they call all outsiders '^ fur- 
riners." It matters not whether your descent 

Th:^ Author's I'irst Camp in the Smokies. 


be from Puritan or Cavalier, whether you come 
from Boston or Chicago, Savannah or New Or- 
leans, in the mountains you are a " furriner." 
A traveler, puzzled and scandalized at this, 
asked a native of the Cumberlands what he 
would call a " Dutchman or a Dago." The fel- 
low studied a bit and then replied: "Them's 
the outlandish." 

Foreigner, outlander, it is all one; we are 
" different," we are " quar," to the mountaineer. 
He knows he is an American ; but his conception 
of the metes and bounds of America is vague 
to the vanishing point. As for countries over- 
sea — well, when a celebrated Nebraskan re- 
turned from his trip around the globe, one of 
my backwoods neighbors proudly informed me: 
" I see they give Bryan a lot of receptions when 
he kem back from the other world." 

No one can understand the attitude of our 
highlanders toward the rest of the earth until he 
realizes their amazing isolation from all that 
lies beyond the blue, hazy skyline of their moun- 
tains. Conceive a shipload of emigrants cast 
away on some unknown island, far from the 
regular track of vessels, and left there for five 
or six generations, unaided and untroubled by 
the growth of civilization. Among the descend- 
ants of such a company we would expect to find 


customs and ideas unaltered from the time of 
their forefathers. And that is just what we do 
find to-day among our castaways in the sea of 
mountains. Time has lingered in Appalachia. 
The mountain folk still live in the eighteenth 
century. The progress of mankind from that 
age to this is no heritage of theirs. 

Our backwoodsmen of the Blue Ridge and 
the Unakas, of their connecting chains, and of 
the outlying Cumberlands, are still thinking es- 
sentially the same thoughts, still living in much 
the same fashion, as did their ancestors In the 
days of Daniel Boone. Nor is this their fault. 
They are a people of keen intelligence and 
strong initiative when they can see anything to 
win. But, as President Frost says, they have 
been " beleaguered by nature." They are be- 
lated — ghettoed in the midst of a civilization 
that is as aloof from them as if It existed only 
on another planet. And so, in order to be fair 
and just with these, our backward kinsmen, we 
must, for the time, decivilize ourselves to the ex- 
tent of going back and getting an eighteenth cen- 
tury point of view. 

But, first, how comes It that the mountain 
folk have been so long detached from the life 
and movement of their times? Why are they 
so foreign to present-day Americanism that they 


innocently call all the rest of us foreigners? 

The answer lies on the map. They are crea- 
tures of environment, enmeshed in a labyrinth 
that has deflected and repelled the march of our 
nation for three hundred years. 

In 1728, when Colonel William Byrd, of 
Westover, was running the boundary line be- 
tween Virginia and North Carolina, he finally 
was repulsed by parallel chains of savage, un- 
peopled mountains that rose tier beyond tier to 
the westward, everywhere densely forested, and 
matted into jungle by laurel and other under- 
growth. In his Journal, writing in the quaint, 
old-fashioned way, he said: "Our country has 
now been inhabited more than 130 years by the 
English, and still we hardly know anything of 
the Appalachian Mountains, that are nowhere 
above 250 miles from the sea. Whereas the 
French, who are later comers, have rang'd from 
Quebec Southward as far as the Mouth of Mis- 
sissippi, in the bay of Mexico, and to the West 
almost as far as California, which is either way 
above 2,000 miles." 

A hundred and thirty years later, the same 
thing could have been said of these same moun- 
tains ; for the " fierce and uncouth races of men " 
that Poe faintly heard of remained practically 
undiscovered until they startled the nation on 


the scene of our Civil War, by sending 180,000 
of their riflemen into the Union Army. 

If a corps of surveyors to-day should be en- 
gaged to run a line due west from eastern Vir- 
ginia to the Blue Grass of Kentucky, they would 
have an arduous task. Let us suppose that they 
start from near Richmond and proceed along 
the line of 37° 50^ The Blue Ridge is not es- 
pecially diflicult: only eight transverse ridges 
to climb up and down in fourteen miles, and 
none of them more than 2,000 feet high from 
bottom to top. Then, thirteen miles across the 
lower end of The Valley, a curious formation 

As a foretaste, in the three and a half miles 
crossing Little House and Big House mountains, 
one ascends 2,200 feet, descends 1,400, climbs 
again 1,600, and goes down 2,000 feet on the far 
side. Beyond lie steep and narrow ridges athwart 
the way, paralleling each other like vvavcs at 
sea. Ten distinct mountain chains are scaled 
and descended in the next forty miles. There 
are few " leads " rising gradually to their crests. 
Each and every one of these ridges is a Chinese 
wall magnified to altitudes of from a thousand 
to two thousand feet, and covered with thicket. 
The hollows between them are merely deep 

In the next thirty miles we come upon novel 


topography. Instead of wave following wave 
in orderly procession, we find here a choppy sea 
of small mountains, with hollows running to- 
ward all points of the compass. Instead of 
Chinese walls, we now have Chinese puzzles. 
The innate perversity of such configuration 
grows more and more exasperating as we toil 
westward. In the two hundred miles from the 
Greenbrier to the Kentucky River, the ridges 
are all but unscalable, and the streams sprangle 
in every direction like branches of mountain 

The only roads follow the beds of tortuous 
and rock-strewn water courses, which may be 
nearly dry when you start out in the morning, 
but within an hour may be raging torrents. 
There are no bridges. One may ford a dozen 
times in a mile. A spring " tide " will stop all 
travel, even from neighbor to neighbor, for a day 
or two at a time. Buggies and carriages are 
unheard of. In many districts the only means 
of transportation is with saddlebags on horse- 
back, or with a " tow sack " afoot. If the pe- 
destrian tries a short-cut he will learn what the 
natives mean when they say: " Goin' up, you 
can might' nigh stand up straight and bite the 
ground; goin' down, a man wants hobnails in 
the seat of his pants." 

James Lane Allen .was not writing fiction 


when he said of the far-famed Wilderness Road 
into Kentucky: "Despite all that has been 
done to civilize it since Boone traced its course 
in 1790, this honored historic thoroughfare re- 
mains to-day as it was in the beginning, with all 
its sloughs and sands, its mud and holes, and jut- 
ting ledges of rock and loose boulders, and 
twists and turns, and general total depravity. . . . 
One such road was enough. They are said to 
have been notorious for profanity, those who 
came into Kentucky from this side. Naturally. 
Many were infidels — there are roads that make 
a man lose faith. It is known that the more 
pious companies of them, as they traveled along, 
would now and then give up in despair, sit 
down, raise a hymn, and have prayers before 
they could go further. Perhaps one of the pro- 
vocations to homicide among the mountain 
people should be reckoned this road. I have 
seen two of the mildest of men, after riding over 
it for a few hours, lose their temper and begin 
to fight — fight their horses, fight the flies, fight 
the cobwebs on their noses." 

Such difficulties of intercommunication are 
enough to explain the isolation of the mountain- 
eers. In the more remote regions this loneliness 
reaches a degree almost unbelievable. Miss El- 
len Semple, in a fine monograph published in 


the Geographical Journal, of London, In 1901, 
gave us some examples : 

" These Kentuckj' mountaineers are not only cut off from 
the outside world, but they are separated from each other. 
Each is confined to his own locality, and finds his little 
world within a radius of a few miles from his cabin. There 
are many men in these mountains who have never seen a 
town, or even the poor village that constitutes their county- 
seat. . . . The women . . . are almost as rooted 
as the trees. We met one woman who, during the twelve 
years of her married life, had lived only ten miles across the 
mountain from her own home, but had never in this time 
been back home to visit her father and mother. Another 
back in Perry county told me she had never been farther 
from home than Hazard, the county-seat, which is only 
six miles distant. Another had never been to the post- 
office, four miles away; and another had never seen the 
ford of the Rockcastle River, only two miles from her 
home, and marked, moreover, by the country store of the 

When I first went into the Smokies, I stopped 
one night in a single-room log cabin, and soon 
had the good people absorbed in my tales of 
travel beyond the seas. Finally the housewife 
said to me, with pathetic resignation: " Bush- 
nell's the furdest ever I've been." Bushnell, 
at that time, was a hamlet of thirty people, only 
seven miles from where we sat. When I lived 
alone on "the Little Fork of Sugar Fork of 


Hazel Creek," there were WDmen in the neigh- 
borhood, young and old, who had never seen a 
railroad, and men who had never boarded a 
train, although the Murphy branch ran within 
sixteen miles of our post-office. The first 
time that a party of these people went to the 
railroad, they were uneasy and suspicious. Near- 
ing the way-station, a girl in advance came upon 
the first negro she ever saw in her life, and ran 
screaming back: "My goddamighty. Mam, 
thar's the boogerman — I done seed him!" 

But before discussing the mountain people 
and their problems, let us take an imaginary 
balloon voyage over their vast domain. South 
of the Potomac the Blue Ridge is a narrow ram- 
part rising abruptly from the east, one or two 
thousand feet above its base, and descending 
sharply to the Shenandoah Valley on the west. 
Across the Valley begin the Alleghanies. These 
mountains, from the Potomac through to the 
northern Tennessee border, consist of a multi- 
tude of narrow ridges with steep escarpment on 
both sides, running southwesterly in parallel 
chains, and each chain separated from its neigh- 
bors by deep, slender dales. Wherever one goes 
westward from the Valley he will encounter tier 
after tier of these ridges, as I have already de- 

The Old Copper Mine. 


As a rule, the links in each chain can be passed 
by following small gaps; but often one must 
make very wide detours. For example, Pine 
Mountain (every link has its own distinct name) 
is practically impassable for nearly 150 miles, 
except for two water gaps and five difficult cross- 
ings. Although it averages only a mile thick, 
the people on its north side, generally, know less 
about those on the south than a Maine Yankee 
does about Pennsylvania Dutchmen. 

The AUeghanies together have a width of 
from forty to sixty miles. Westward of them, 
for a couple of hundred miles, are the labyrin- 
thine roughs of West Virginia and eastern Ken- 

In southwestern Virginia the Blue Ridge and 
the AUeghanies coalesce, but soon spread apart 
again, the Blue Ridge retaining its name, as well 
as its general character, although much loftier 
and more massive than in the north. The south- 
east front of the Blue Ridge is a steep escarp- 
ment, rising abruptly from the Piedmont Pla- 
teau of Carolina. Not one river cuts through 
the Ridge, notwithstanding that the mountains 
to the westward are higher and much more mas- 
sive. It is the watershed of this whole moun- 
tain region. The streams rising on its north- 
western front flow down into central plateaus, 


and thence cut their way through the Unakas 
in deep and precipitous gorges, draining finally 
into the Gulf of Mexico, through the Tennessee, 
Ohio and Mississippi rivers. 

The northwestern range, which corresponds 
to the Alleghanies of Virginia, now assumes 
a character entirely different from them. In- 
stead of parallel chains of low ridges, we have 
here, on the border of North Carolina and Ten- 
nessee, a single chain that dwarfs all others in 
the Appalachian system. It is cut into seg- 
ments by the rivers (Nolichucky, French Broad, 
Pigeon, Little Tennessee, Hiwassee) that drain 
the interior plateaus, and each segment has a 
distinct name of its own (Iron, Northern Unaka, 
Bald, Great Smoky, Southern Unaka or Unicoi 
mountains). The Carolina mountaineer? still 
call this system collectively the Alleghanies, but 
the U. S. Geological Survey has given it a 
more distinctive name, the Unakas. While the 
Blue Ridge has only seven peaks that rise above 
5,000 feet, the Unakas have 125 summits exceed- 
ing 5,000, and ten that are over 6,000 feet. 

Connecting the Unaka chain with the Blue 
Ridge are several transverse ranges, the Stone, 
-Beech, Roan, Yellow, Black, -Newfound, Pis- 
gah, Balsam, Cowee, Nantahala, Tusquitee, and 
a few minor mountains, which as a whole are 


much higher than the Blue Ridge, 156 summits 
rising over 5,000 feet, and thirty-six over 6,000 
feet above sea-level. 

In northern Georgia the Unakas and the Blue 
Ridge gradually fade aw^ay into straggling 
ridges and foothills, which extend into small 
parts of South Carolina and Alabama. 

The Cumberland Plateau is not attached to 
either of these mountain systems, but is rather 
a prolongation of the roughs of eastern Ken- 
tucky. It is separated from the Unakas by the 
broad valley of the Tennessee River. The Pla- 
teau rises very abruptly from the surrounding 
plains. It consists mainly of tableland gashed 
by streams that have cut their way down in deep 
narrow gulches with precipitous sides. 

Most of the literature about our Southern 
mountaineers refers only to the inhabitants of 
the comparatively meagre hills of eastern Ken- 
tucky, or to the Cumberlands of Tennessee. 
Little has been written about the real mountain- 
eers of southwestern Virginia, western North 
Carolina, and the extreme north of Georgia. 
The great mountain masses still await their an- 
nalist, their artist, and, in some places, even 
their explorer. 



F certain remote parts of Erin, Jane Bar- 
low says: "In Bogland, if you inquire 
the address of such or such person, you 
will hear not very infrequently that he or she 
lives ' off away at the Back of Beyond.' ... A 
traveler to the Back of Beyond may consider 
himself rather exceptionally fortunate, should 
he find that he is able to arrive at his destination 
by any mode of conveyance other than ' the two 
standin' feet of him.' Often enough the last 
stage of his journey proceeds down some boggy 
boreen, or up some craggy hill-track, inacces- 
sible to any wheel or hoof that ever was shod." 
So in Appalachia, one steps shortly from the 
railway into the primitive. Most of the river 
valleys are narrow. In their bottoms the soil is 
rich, the farms well kept and generous, the own- 
ers comfortable and urbane. But from the val- 
leys directly spring the mountains, with slopes 

rising twenty to forty degrees or more. These 



mountains cover nine-tenths of western North 
Carolina, and among them dwell a majority of 
the native people. 

The back country Is rough. No boat nor 
canoe can stem its brawling waters. No bicy- 
cle nor automobile can enter it. No coach can 
endure its roads. Here is a land of lumber 
wagons, and saddle-bags, and shackly little sleds 
that are dragged over the bare ground by har- 
nessed steers. This is the country that ordinary 
tourists shun. And well for such that they do, 
since whoso cares more for bodily comfort than 
for freedom and air and elbow-room should 
tarry by still waters and pleasant pastures. To 
him the backwoods could be only what Burns 
called Argyleshire: "A country where savage 
streams tumble over savage mountains, thinly 
overspread with savage flocks, which starvingly 
support as savage inhabitants." 

When I went south into the mountains I was 
seeking a Back of Beyond. This for more rea- 
sons than one. With an inborn taste for the wild 
and romantic, I yearned for a strange land and 
a people that had the charm of originality. 
Again, I had a passion for early American his- 
tory; and, in Far Appalachia, it seemed that I 
might realize the past in the present, seeing with 
my own eyes what life must have been to my 


pioneer ancestors of a century or two ago. Be- 
sides, I wanted to enjoy a free life in the open 
air, the thrill of exploring new ground, the joys 
of the chase, and the man's game of matching 
my woodcraft against the forces of nature, with 
no help from servants or hired guides. 

So, casting about for a biding place that 
would fill such needs, I picked out the upper 
settlement of Hazel Creek, far up under the lee 
of those Smoky Mountains that I had learned 
so little about. On the edge of this settlement, 
scant two miles from the post-office of Medlin, 
there was a copper mine, long disused on ac- 
count of litigation, and I got permission to oc- 
cupy one of its abandoned cabins. 

A mountain settlement consists of all who get 
their mail at the same place. Ours was made 
up of forty-two households (about two hundred 
souls) scattered over an area eight miles long by 
two wide. These are air-line measurements. 
All roads and trails "wiggled and wingled 
around" so that some families were several 
miles from a neighbor. Fifteen homes had no 
wagon road, and could be reached by no vehicle 
other than a narrow sled. Quill Rose had not 
even a sledpath, but journeyed full five miles by 
trail to the nearest wagon road. 

Medlin itself comprised two little stores built 


of rough planks and bearing no signs, a corn 
mill, and four dwellings. A mile and a half 
away was the log schoolhouse, which, once or 
twice a month, served also as church. Scat- 
tered about the settlement were seven tiny tub- 
mills for grinding corn, some of them mere open 
sheds with a capacity of about a bushel a day. 
Most of the dwellings were built of logs. Two 
or three, only, were weatherboarded frame 
houses and attained the dignity of a story and a 

All about us was the forest primeval, where 
roamed some sparse herds of cattle, razorback 
hogs, and the wild beasts. Speckled trout were 
In all the streams. Bears sometimes raided the 
fields, and wildcats were a common nuisance. 
Our settlement was a mere slash in the vast 
woodland that encompassed it. 

The post-office occupied a space about five 
feet square, in a corner of one of the stores. 
There w^as a daily mail, by rider, serving four 
other communities along the way. The contrac- 
tor for this service had to furnish two horses, 
working turnabout, pay the rider, and squeeze 
his own profit, out of $499 a year. In 'Star 
Route days the mail was carried afoot, two bare- 
footed young men "toting the sacks on their 
own wethers " over this thirty-two-mile round 


trip, for forty-eight cents a day; and they 
boarded themselves! 

In the group that gathered at mail time I of- 
ten was solicited to " back " envelopes, give out 
the news, or decipher letters for men who could 
not read. Several times, in the postmaster's ab- 
sence, I registered letters for myself, or for 
someone else, the law of the nation being sus- 
pended by general consent. 

Our stores, as I have said, were small, yet 
many of their shelves were empty. Oftentimes 
there was no flour to be had, no meat, cereals, 
canned goods, coffee, sugar, or oil. It excited 
no comment at all when Old Pete would lean 
across his bare counter and lament that " Thar's 
lots o' folks a-hurtin' around hyur for lard, and 
I ain't got none." 

I have seen the time when our neighborhood 
could get no salt nor tobacco without making a 
twenty-four-mile trip over the mountain and 
back, in the dead of winter. This was due, 
partly, to the state of the roads, and to the fact 
that there would be no wagon available for 
weeks at a time. Wagoning, by the way, was 
no sinecure. Often it meant to chop a fallen 
tree out of the road, and then, with handspikes, 
" man-power the log outen the way." Some- 
times an axle would break (far up on the moun- 

Cabin on the Little Fork of Su^ar Fork of Hazel Creek, where the 
author lived alone for three years. 


tain, of course) ; then a tree must be felled, and 
a new axle made on the spot from the green 
wood, with no tools but axe and jackknife. 

Trade was mostly by barter, in which 'coon 
skins and ginseng had the same rank as in the 
days of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Long 
credits were given on anticipated crops; but the 
risks were great and the market limited by local 
consumption, as it did not pay to haul bulky 
commodities to the railroad. Hence it was self- 
preservation for the storekeepers to carry only a 
slender stock of essentials and take pains to have 
little left through unproductive times. 

As a rule, credit would not be asked so long as 
anything at all could be offered in trade. When 
Bill took the last quart of meal from the house, 
as rations for a bear hunt, his patient Marg 
walked five miles to the store with a skinny old 
chicken, last of the flock, and offered to barter 
it for " a dustin' o' salt." There was not a bite 
in her house beyond potatoes, and " 'taters don't 
go good 'thout salt." 

In our primitive community there were no 
trades, no professions. Every man was his 
own farmer, blacksmith, gunsmith, carpenter, 
cobbler, miller, tinker. Someone in his family, 
or a near neighbor, served him as barber and 
dentist, and would make him a coffin when he 


died. One farmer was also the wagoner of 
the district, as well as storekeeper, magistrate, 
veterinarian, and accoucheur. He also owned 
the only "tooth-pullers" in the settlement: a 
pair of universal forceps that he designed, 
forged, filed out, and wielded with barbaric grit. 
His wife kept the only boarding-house for 
leagues around. Truly, an accomplished 

About two-thirds of our householders owned 
their homes. Of the remainder about three- 
fifths were renters and two-fifths were squatters, 
in the sense that these last were permitted to 
occupy ground for the sake of reporting trespass 
and putting out fires — or, maybe, to prevent 
them doing both. Nearly all of the wild land 
■belonged to Northern timber companies who 
had not yet begun operations (they have done so 
within the past three years). 

Titles were confused, owing to careless sur- 
veys, or guesswork, in the past. Many boun- 
daries overlapped, and there were bits of no- 
man's land here and there, covered by no deed 
and subject to entry by anyone who discovered 
them. Our old frontier always was notorious 
for happy-go-lucky surveys and neglect to make 
legal entry of claims. Thus Boone lost the fair- 
est parts of the Kentucky he founded, and was 


ejected and sent adrift. In our own time, over- 
lapping boundaries have led to bitter litigation 
and murderous feuds. 

As our territory was sparsely occupied, there 
were none of those " perpendicular farms " so 
noticeable in older settlements near the river 
valleys, where men plow fields as steep as their 
own house roofs and till with the hoe many an 
acre that is steeper still. John Fox tells of a 
Kentucky farmer who fell out of his own corn- 
field and broke his neck. I have seen fields in 
Carolina where this might occur, as where a 
forty-five degree slope is tilled to the brink of 
a precipice. A woman told me: "I've hoed 
corn many a time on my knees — yes, I have;" 
and another: " Many's the hill o' corn I've 
propped up with a rock to keep it from fallin'' 
down-hill." * 

Even in our new region many of the fields 
suffered quickly from erosion. When a forest 
is cleared there is a spongy humus on the ground 
surface that is extremely rich, but this washes 
away in a single season. The soil beneath is 

*A friend of mine on the U. S. Geological Survey 
tested with his clinometer a mountain cornfield that sloped 
at an angle of fifty degrees. 


gooa, but thin on the hillsides, and its soluble, 
fertile ingredients soon leach out and vanish. 
Without terracing, which I have never seen 
practiced in the mountains of the South, no field 
with a surface slope of more than ten degrees 
(about two feet in ten) will last more than a few 
years. As one of my neighbors put it: " Thar, 
I've cl'ared me a patch and grubbed hit out — 
now I can raise me two or three severe craps!" 

"Then what?" I asked. 

" When corn won't grow no more I can turn 
the field into grass a couple o' years." 

"Then you'll rotate, and grow corn again?" 

"La, no! By that time the land will be so 
poor hit wouldn't raise a cuss-fight." 

" But then you must move, and begin all over 
again. This continual moving must be a great 

He rolled his quid and placidly answered: 
" Huk-uh ; when I move, all I haf¥ter do is 
put out the fire and call the dog." 

His apparent indifference was only phil- 
osophy expressed with sardonic humor; just as 
another neighbor would say, " This is good, 
strong land, or it wouldn't hold up all the rocks 
there is around hyur." 

Right here is the basis for much of what 
strangers call shiftlessness among the 


mountaineers. But of that, more anon. 

In clearing new ground, everyone followed 
the ancient custom of girdling the tree trunks 
and letting them stand in spectral ugliness un- 
til they rotted and fell. This is a quick and 
easy way to get rid of the shade that otherwise 
would stunt the crops, and it prevents such trees 
as chestnut, buckeye and basswood from sprout- 
ing from the stumps. In the fields stood scores 
of gigantic hemlocks, deadened, that never 
would be used even for fuel, save as their bark 
furnished the women with quick-burning stove- 
wood in wet weather. No one dreamt that 
hemlock ever would be marketable. And this 
was only five years ago! 

The tillage was as rude and destructive as 
anything we read of in pioneer history. The 
common plow was a " bull-tongue," which has 
aptly been described as " hardly more than a 
sharpened stick with a metal rim." The har- 
rows were of wood, throughout, with locust 
teeth (a friend and I made one from the green 
trees in half a day, and it lasted three seasons 
on rocky ground). Sometimes no harrow was 
used at all, the plowed ground being " drug " 
with a big evergreen bough. This needed only 
to be withed directly to a pony's tail, as they 
used to do in ancient Ireland, and the picture 


of prehistoric agriculture would have been com- 
plete. After the corn was up, all cultivating 
was done with the hoe. For this the entire 
family turned out, the toddlers being left to play 
in the furrows while their mother toiled like a 

Corn was the staple crop — in fact, the only 
crop of most farmers. Some rye was raised 
along the creek, and a little oats, but our settle- 
ment grew no wheat — there was no mill that 
could grind it. Wheat is raised, to some extent, 
in the river bottoms, and on the plateaus of the 
interior. I have seen it flailed out on the bare 
ground, and winnowed by pouring the grain 
and chaff from basket to basket while the 
women fluttered aprons or bed-sheets. Corn is 
topped for the blade-fodder, the ears gathered 
from the stalk, and the main stalks afterwards 
used as "roughness" (roughage). The cribs 
generally are ramshackle pens, and there is 
much waste from mold and vermin. 

The Carolina mountains are, by nature, one 
of the best fruit regions in eastern America. 
Apples, grapes, and berries, especially, thrive 
exceeding well. But our mountaineer is no hor- 
ticulturist. He lets his fruit trees take care of 
themselves, and so, everywhere except on select 
farms near the towns, we see old apple and 


peach trees that never were pruned, bristling 
with shoots, and often bearing wizened fruit, 
dry and bitter, or half rotted on the stem. 

So, too, the gardens are slighted. Late in 
the season our average garden is a miniature 
jungle, chiefly of weeds that stand high as one's 
head. Cabbage and field beans survive and fig- 
ure mightily in the diet of the mountaineer. 
Potatoes generally do well, but few farmers 
raise enough to see them through the winter. 
Generally some tobacco is grown for family con- 
sumption, the strong " twist " being smoked or 
chewed indifferently. 

An interesting crop in our neighborhood was 
ginseng, of which there were several patches in 
cultivation. This curious plant is native 
throughout the Appalachians, but has been ex- 
terminated in all but the wildest regions, on ac- 
count of the high price that its dried root brings. 
It has long since passed out of our pharmaco- 
poeia, and is marketed only in China, though 
our own people formerly esteemed it as a pana- 
cea for all ills of the flesh. Colonel Byrd, in 
his " History of the Dividing Line," says of it: 

" Though Practice will soon make a man of tolerable 
Vigour an able Footman, yet, as a help to bear Fatigue I 
us'd to chew a Root of Ginseng as I Walk't along. This 


kept up mj' Spirits, and made me trip away as nimbly in 
my half Jack-Boots as younger men cou'd in their Shoes. 
This Plant is in high Esteem in China, where it sells for 
its Weight in Silver. ... Its vertues are, that it gives 
an uncommon Warmth and Vigour to the Blood, and frisks 
the Spirits, beyond any other Cordial. It chears the Heart, 
even of a Man that has a bad Wife, and makes him look 
down with great Composure on the crosses of the World. 
It promotes insensible Perspiration, dissolves all Phlegmatick 
and Viscous Humours, that are apt to obstruct the Narrow 
channels of the Nerves. It helps the Memory and would 
quicken even Helvetian dullness. 'Tis friendly to the 
Lungs, much more than Scolding itself. It comforts the 
Stomach, and Strengthens the Bowels, preventing ail Colicks 
and Fluxes. In one Word, it will make a Man live a great 
while, and very well while he does live. And what is more, 
it will even make Old Age amiable, by rendering it lively, 
chearful, and good-humour'd." 

Alas that only Chinamen and eighteenth-cen- 
tury Cavaliers could absorb the virtues of this 
sovereign herb! 

A successful ginseng grower of our settlement 
told me that two acres of the plant will bring 
an income of $2,500 to $5,000 a year, planting 
100,000 to the acre. The roots take eight years 
to mature. They weigh from one and a half to 
four ounces each, when fresh, and one-third of 
this dried. Two acres produce 25,000 roots a 
year, by progression. The dried root, at that 
time, brought five dollars a pound. At present, 


At the Post-Office. (SherifY Collecting Taxes.) 


I believe, it is higher. Another friend of mine, 
who is in this business extensively, tried export- 
ing for himself, but got only $6.50 a pound in 
Amoy, when the U. S. consul at that port as- 
sured him that the real market price was from 
$12.60 to $24.40. The local trader, knowing 
American prices, pocketed the difference. 

In times of scarcity many of our people took 
to the woods and gathered commoner medicinal 
roots, such as bloodroot and wild ginger (there 
are scores of others growing wild in great pro- 
fusion), but made only a pittance at it, as syn- 
thetic drugs have mostly taken the place of 
herbal simples in modern medicine. Women 
and children did better, in the days before 
Christmas, by gathering galax, "hemlock" 
{leucothoe), and mistletoe, selling to the dealers 
at the railroad, who ship them North for holi- 
day decorations. One bright lad from town in- 
formed me, with evident pride of geography, 
that " Some of this goes to London, England." 
Nearly everywhere in our woods the beautiful 
ruddy-bronze galax is abundant. Along the 
water-courses, leucothoe, which similarly turns 
bronze in autumn, and lasts throughout the win- 
ter, is so prolific as to be a nuisance to travelers, 
being hard to push through. 

Most of our farmers had neither horse nor 


mule. For the rough work of cultivating the 
hillsides a single steer hitched to the " bull- 
tongue " was better adapted, and the same steer 
patiently dragged a little sled to the trading 
post. On steep declivities the sled is more prac- 
tical than a cart or wagon, because it can go 
where wheels cannot, it does not require so wide 
a track, and it " brakes " automatically in going 
downhill. Nearly all the farmer's hauling is 
downhill to his home, or down farther to the 
village. A sled can be made quite easily by 
one man, out of wood growing on the spot, and 
with few iron fittings, or none at all. The run- 
ners are usually made of natural sourwood 
crooks, this timber being chosen because it 
wears very smooth and does not fur up nor 

The hinterland is naturally adapted to graz- 
ing, rather than to agriculture. As it stands, 
the best pasturage is high up in the mountains, 
where there are " balds " covered with succu- 
lent wild grass that resembles Kentucky blue- 
grass. Clearing and sowing would extend such 
areas Indefinitely. The cattle forage for them- 
selves through eight or nine months of the year, 
running wild like the razorbacks, and the only 
attention given them Is when the herdsmen go 
out to salt them or to mark the calves. Nearly 


all the beasts are scrub stock. Jerseys, and 
other blooded cattle thrive in the valleys, where 
there are no free ranges, but the backwoodsman 
does not want " critters that haffter be gentled 
and hand-fed." The result is that many fam- 
ilies go without milk a great part of the year, 
and seldom indeed taste butter or beef. 

The truth is that mountain beef, being fed 
nothing but grass and browse, with barely 
enough corn and roughage to keep the animal 
alive through winter, is blue-fleshed, watery, 
and tough. If properly reared, the quality 
would be as good as any. Almost any of our 
farmers could have had a pasture near home 
and could have grown hay, but not one in ten 
would take the trouble. His cattle were only 
for export — let the buyer fatten them! It 
should be understood that nobody had any pro- 
vision for taking care of fresh meat when the 
weather was not frosty. 

On those rare occasions when somebody killed 
a beef, he had to travel all over the neighbor- 
hood to dispose of it in small portions. The 
carcass was cut up in the same way as a hog, and 
all parts except the cheap " bilin' pieces " were 
sold at the same price: ten cents a pound, or 
whatever they would bring on the spot. The 
butchering was done with an axe and a jack- 


knife. The meat was either sliced thin and 
fried to a crackling, or cut in chunks and boiled 
furiously just long enough to fit it for boot- 
heels. What the butcher mangled, the cook 

Few sheep were raised in our settlement, and 
these only for their wool. The untamed 
Smokies were no place for such defenseless 
creatures. Sheep will not, cannot, run wild. 
They are wholly dependent on the fostering 
hand of man and perish without his shepherd- 
ing. Curiously enough, our mountaineer knows 
little or nothing about the goat — an animal per- 
fectly adapted to the free range of the Smokies. 
I am convinced that goats would be more profit- 
able to the small farmers of the wild mountains 
than cattle. Goats do not graze, but browse 
upon the shrubbery, of which there is a vast 
superfluity in all the Southern mountains. Un- 
like the weak, timorous and stupid sheep, a flock 
of goats can fight their own battles against wild 
animals. They are hardy in any weather, and 
thrive from their own pickings where other for- 
agers would starve. 

A good milch goat gives more and richer milk 
than the average mountain cow. And a kid 
yields excellent fresh meat in manageable quan- 
tity, at a time when no one would butcher a 


beef because it would spoil. I used to shut my 
eyes and imagine the transformation that would 
be wrought in these mountains by a colony of 
Swiss, who would turn the coves into gardens, 
the moderate slopes into orchards, the steeper 
ones into vineyards, by terracing, and who would 
export the finest of cheese made from the sur- 
plus milk of their goats. But our native moun- 
taineers — well, a man who will not eat beef nor 
drink fresh cow's milk, and who despises but- 
ter, cannot be interested in anything of the dairy 

The chickens ran wild and scratched for a 
living; hence were thin, tough, and poor layers. 
Eggs seldom were for sale. It was not of much 
use to try to raise many chickens where they 
were unprotected from hawks, minks, foxes, 
weasels and snakes. 

Honey often was procured by spotting wild 
bees to their hoard and chopping the tree, a 
mild form of sport in w^hich most settlers are ex- 
pert. Our local preacher had a hundred hives 
of tame bees, producing 1,500 pounds of honey 
a year, for which he got ten cents a pound at 
the railroad. 

The mainstay of every farmer, aside from his 
cornfield, was his litter of razorback hogs. " Old 
cornbread and sowbelly" are a menu complete 


for the mountaineer. The wild pig, roaming 
foot-loose and free over hill and dale, picks up 
his own living at all seasons and requires no 
attention at all. He is the cheapest possible 
source of meat and yields the quickest return: 
" no other food animal can increase his own 
weight a hundred and fifty fold in the first eight 
months of his life." And so he is regarded by 
his owner with the same affection that Conne- 
mara Paddy bestows upon " the gintleman that 
pays the rint." 

In physique and mentality, the razorback dif- 
fers even more from a domestic hog than a wild 
goose does from a tame one. Shaped in front 
like a thin wedge, he can go through laurel 
thickets like a bear. Armored with tough hide 
cushioned by bristles, he despises thorns, bram- 
bles, and rattlesnakes, alike. His extravagantly 
long snout can scent like a cat's, and yet burrow, 
uproot, overturn, as if made of metal. The 
long legs, thin flanks, pliant hoofs, fit him to run 
like a deer and climb like a goat. In courage 
and sagacity he outranks all other beasts. A 
warrior born, he is also a strategist of the first 
order. Like man, he lives a communal life, and 
unites with others of his kind for purposes of 

The pig is the only large mammal I know 


of, besides man, whose eyes will not shine by 
reflected light — they are too bold and craft3^ 1 
wit. The razorback has a mind of his own ; not 
instinct, but mind — whatever psychologists may 
say. He thinks. Anybody can see that when 
he is not rooting or sleeping he is studying 
devilment. He shows remarkable understand- 
ing of human speech, especially profane speech, 
and even an uncanny gift of reading men's 
thoughts, whenever those thoughts are directed 
against the peace and dignity of pigship. He 
bears grudges, broods over indignities, and 
plans redresses for the morrow or the week af- 
ter. If he cannot get even with you, he will lay 
for your unsuspecting friend. And at the last, 
when arrested in his crimes and lodged in the 
pen, he is liable to attacks of mania from sheer 
helpless rage. 

If you camp out In the mountains, nothing 
will molest you but razorback hogs. Bears will 
flee and wildcats sneak to their dens, but the 
moment incense of cooking arises from your 
camp every pig within two miles will scent it 
and hasten to call. You may throw your arm 
out of joint: they will laugh in your face. You 
may curse in five languages: It Is music to their 
titillating ears. 

Throughout summer and autumn I cooked out 


of doors, on the woodsman's range of forked 
stakes and a lug-pole spanning parallel beds of 
rock. When the pigs came, I fed them red- 
pepper pie. Then all said good-bye to my hos- 
pitality save one slab-sided, tusky old boar — 
and he planned a campaign. At the first smell 
of smoke he would start for my premises. Hid- 
ing securely in a nearby thicket, he would spy 
on the operations until my stew got to simmer- 
ing gently and I would retire to the cabin and 
get my fists in the dough. Then, charging at 
speed, he would knock down a stake, trip the 
lug-pole, and send my dinner flying. Every day 
he would do this. It got so that I had to sit 
there facing the fire all through my cooking, or 
that beast of a hog would ruin me. With this 
I thought he was outgeneraled. Idle dream! 
He would slip off to my favorite neighbor's, 
break through the garden fence, and raise Ned 
instanter — all because he hated me, for that pep- 
pery fraud, and knew that Bob and I were 

I dubbed this pig Belial; a name that Bob 
promptly adapted to his own notion by calling 
it Be-liar. "That Be-liar," swore he, "would 
cross hell on a rotten rail to git into my 'tater 

Finally I could stand it no longer, and took 




A Tub Mill 


down my rifle. It was a nail-driver, and I, 
through constant practice in beheading squir- 
rels, was in good form. However, in the moun- 
tains it is more heinous to kill another man's pig 
than to shoot the owner. So I took craft for 
my guide, and guile for my heart's counsel. I 
stalked Belial as stealthily as ever hunter crept 
on an antelope against the wind. At last I had 
him dead right: broadside to me and motionless 
as if in a daydream. I knew that if I drilled 
his ear, or shot his tail clean ofif, it would only 
make him meaner than ever. He sported an 
uncommonly fine tail, and was proud to flaunt 
it. I drew down on that member, purposely a 
trifle scant, fired, and — away scuttled that boar, 
with a broken tail that would dangle and cling 
to him disgracefully through life. 

Exit Belial! It was equivalent to a broken 
heart. He emigrated, or committed suicide, I 
know not which, but the Smoky Mountains 
knew him no more. 



FOR a long time my chief interest was not 
in human neighbors, but in the mountains 
themselves — in that mysterious beckoning 
hinterland which rose right back of my chimney 
and spread upward, outward, almost to three 
cardinal points of the compass, mile after mile, 
hour after hour of lusty climbing — an Eden still 
unpeopled and unspoiled. 

I loved of a morning to slip on my haversack, 
pick up my rifle, or maybe a mere staff, and 
stride forth alone over haphazard routes, to enjoy 
in my own untutored way the infinite variety of 
form and color and shade, of plant and tree and 
animal life, in that superb wilderness that tow- 
ered there far above all homes of men. (And 
I love it still, albeit the charm of new discovery 
is gone from those heights and gulfs that are 
now so intimate and full of memories). 

The Carolina mountains have a character all 
their own. Rising abruptly from a low base, 



and then rounding more gradually upward for 
2,000 to 5,000 feet above their valleys, their ap- 
parent height is more impressive than that of 
many a loftier summit in the West which forms 
only a protuberance on an elevated plateau. 
Nearly all of them are clad to their tops in dense 
forest and thick undergrowth. Here and there 
is a grassy " bald ": a natural meadow curiously 
perched on the very top of a mountain. There 
are no bare, rocky summits rising above timber- 
line, few jutting crags, no ribs and vertebrae of 
the earth exposed. Seldom does one see even 
a naked ledge of rock. The very clififs are 
sheathed with trees and shrubs, so that one tread- 
ing their edges has no fear of falling into an 

Pinnacles or serrated ridges are rare. There 
are few commanding peaks. From almost anv 
summit in Carolina one looks out upon a sea of 
flowing curves and dome-shaped eminences un- 
dulating, with no great disparity of height, unto 
the horizon. Almost everywhere the contours 
are similar: steep sides gradually rounding to 
the tops, smooth-surfaced to the eye because of 
the endless verdure. Every ridge is separated 
from its sisters by deep and narrow ravines. 
Not one of the thousand water courses shows a 
glint of its dashing stream, save where some far- 


off river may reveal, through a gap in the moun- 
tain, one single shimmering curve. In all this 
vast prospect, a keen eye, knowing where to look, 
may detect an occasional farmer's clearing, but 
to the stranger there is only mountain and forest, 
mountain and forest, as far as the eye can reach. 

Characteristic, too, is the dreamy blue haze, 
like that of Indian summer intensified, that ever 
hovers over the mountains, unless they be 
swathed in cloud, or, for a few minutes, after 
a sharp rain-storm has cleared the atmosphere. 
Both the Blue Ridge and the Smoky Mountains 
owe their names to this tenuous mist. It softens 
all outlines, and lends a mirage-like effect of 
great distance to objects that are but a few miles 
off, while those farther removed grow more and 
more intangible until finally the sky-line blends 
with the sky itself. 

The foreground of such a landscape, in sum- 
mer, is warm, soft, dreamy, caressing, habit- 
able; beyond it are gentle and luring solitudes; 
the remote ranges are inexpressibly lonesome, 
isolated and mysterious; but everywhere the 
green forest mantle bespeaks a vital present; no- 
where does cold, bare granite stand as the sepul- 
chre of an immemorial past. 

And yet these very mountains of Carolina are 
among the ancients of the earth. They were 


old, very old, before the Alps and the Andes, 
the Rockies and the Himalayas were molded 
into their primal shapes. Upon them, in after 
ages, were born the first hardwoods of Amer- 
ica — perhaps those of Europe, too — and upon 
them to-day the last great hardwood forests of 
our country stand in primeval majesty, mutely 
awaiting their imminent doom. 

The richness of the Great Smoky forest has 
been the wonder and the admiration of every- 
one who has traversed it As one climbs from 
the river to one of the main peaks, he passes 
successively through the same floral zones he 
would encounter in traveling from mid-Georgia 
to southern Canada. 

Starting amid sycamores, elms, gums, willows, 
persimmons, chinquapins, he soon enters a re- 
gion of beech, birch, basswood, magnolia, cu- 
cumber, butternut, holly, sourwood, box elder, 
ash, maple, buckeye, poplar, hemlock, and a 
great number of other growths along the creeks 
and branches. On the lower slopes are many 
species of oaks, with hickory, hemlock, pitch 
pine, locust, dogwood, chestnut. In this region 
nearly all trees attain their fullest development. 
On north fronts of hills the oaks reach a diam- 
eter of five to six feet. In cool, rich coves, chest- 
nut trees grow from six to nine feet across the 


stump; and tulip poplars up to ten or eleven 
feet, their straight trunks towering like gigan- 
tic columns, with scarcely a noticeable taper, 
seventy or eighty feet to the nearest limb. 

Ascending above the zone of 3,000 feet, white 
oak is replaced by the no less valuable " moun- 
tain oak." Beech, birch, buckeye, and chestnut 
persist to 5,000 feet. Then, where the beeches 
dwindle until adult trees are only knee-high, 
there begins a sub-arctic zone of black spruce, 
balsam, striped maple, aspen and the " Peru- 
vian " or red cherry. 

I have named only a few of the prevailing 
growths. Nowhere else in the temperate zone 
is there such a variety of merchantable timber 
as in western Carolina and the Tennessee front 
of the Unaka system. About a hundred and 
twenty species of native trees grow in the 
Smoky forest itself. When Asa Gray visited 
the North Carolina mountains he identified, in 
a thirty-mile trip, a greater variety of indige- 
nous trees than could be observed in crossing 
Europe from England to Turkey, or in a trip 
from Boston to the Rocky Mountain plateau. 
As John Muir has said, our forests, "however 
slighted by man, must have been a great delight 
to God ; for they were the best He ever planted." 

The undergrowth is of almost tropical lux- 


uriance and variety. Botanists say that this is 
the richest collecting ground in the United 
States. Whether one be seeking ferns or fungi 
or orchids or almost anything else vegetal, each 
hour will bring him some new delight. In 
summer the upper mountains are one vast flower 
garden: the white and pink of rhododendron, 
the blaze of azalea, conspicuous above all else, 
in settings of every imaginable shade of green. 
It was the botanist who discovered this Eden 
for us. Far back in the eighteenth century, 
when this was still " Cherokee Country," inhab- 
ited by no whites but a few Indian-traders, Wil- 
liam Bartram of Philadelphia came plant- 
hunting into the mountains of western Carolina, 
and spread their fame to the world. One of 
his choicest finds was the fiery azalea, of which 
he recorded: "The epithet fiery I annex to 
this most celebrated species of azalea, as being 
expressive of the appearance of its flowers; 
which are in general of the color of the finest 
red-lead, orange, and bright gold, as well as 
yellow and cream-color. These various splen- 
did colors are not only in separate plants, but 
frequently all the varieties and shades are seen 
in separate branches on the same plant; and the 
clusters of the blossoms cover the shrubs in such 
incredible profusion on the hillsides that, sud- 


denly opening to view from dark shades, we 
are alarmed with apprehension of the woods 
being set on fire. This is certainly the most 
gay and brilliant flowering shrub yet known." 

And we of a later age, seeing the same wild 
gardens still unspoiled, can appreciate the al- 
most religious fervor of those early botanists, 
as of Michaux, for example, w^ho, in 1794, 
ascending the peak of Grandfather, broke out 
in song: '^ Monte au sommet de la plus haut 
montagne de tout rAmerique Septentrionale, 
chante avec mon compagnon-guide Vhymn de 
Marsellois, et crie, 'Vive la Liberie et la 
Re pub liq u e Fra nqaise! ' " 

Of course Michaux was wildly mistaken in 
thinking Grandfather " the highest mountain 
in all North America." It is far from being 
even the highest of the Appalachians. Yet we 
scarcely know to-day, to a downright certainty, 
which peak is supreme among our Southern 
highlands. The honor is conceded to Mount 
Mitchell in the Black Mountains, northeast of 
Asheville. Still, the heights of the Carolina 
peaks have been taken (with but one exception, 
so far as I know) only by barometric measure- 
ments, and these, even when official, may vary 
as much as a hundred feet for the same moun- 
tain. Since the highest ten or a dozen of our 

A Family of Pioneers in the Twentieth Century 


Carolina peaks differ in altitude only one or 
two hundred feet, their actual rank has not yet 
been determined. 

For a long time there was controversy as to 
whether Mount Mitchell or Clingman Dome 
w^as the crowning summit of eastern America. 
The Coast and Geodetic Survey gave the height 
of Mount Mitchell as 6,688 feet; but later fig- 
ures of the U. S. Geological Survey are 6,711 
and 6,712. In 1859 Buckley claimed for Cling- 
man Dome of the Smokies an altitude of 6,941 
feet. In recent government reports the Dome 
appears variously as 6,619 ^^d 6,660. In 191 1 
I was told by Mr. H. M. Ramseur that when 
he laid out the route of the railroad from Ashe- 
ville to Murphy he ran a line of levels from 
a known datum on this road to the top of Cling- 
man, and that the result was "four sixes" 
(6,666 feet above sea-level). It is probable that 
second place among the peaks of Appalachia 
may belong either to Clingman Dome or Guyot 
or LeConte, of the Smokies, or to Balsam Cone 
of the Black Mountains. 

In any case, the Great Smoky mountains are 
the master chain of the Appalachian system, 
the greatest mass of highland east of the 
Rockies. This segment of the Unakas forms 
the boundary between North Carolina and 


Tennessee from the Big Pigeon River to the 
McDaniel Bald. 

Although some parts of the Smokies are very 
rugged, with sharp changes of elevation, yet 
the range as a whole has no one dominating 
peak. Mount Guyot (pronounced Gee-o, with 
f/ as in get). Mount LeConte, and Clingman 
Dome all are over 6,600 feet and under 6,700, 
according to the most trustworthy measure- 
ments. Many miles of the divide rise 6,000 
feet above sea-level, with only small undula- 
tions like ocean swells. 


The most rugged and difficult part of the 
Smokies (and of the United States east of Colo- 
rado) is in the sawtooth mountains between 
Collins and Guyot, at the headwaters of the 
Okona Lufty River. I know but few men who 
have ever followed this part of the divide, al- 
though during the present year trails have been 
cut from Clingman to Collins, or near it, and 
possibly others beyond to the northeastward. 

In August and September, 1900, Mr. James 
H. Ferriss and wife, naturalists from Joliet, 
Illinois, explored the Smokies to the Lufty Gap 
northeast of Clingman, collecting rare species 
of snails and ferns. No doubt Mrs. Ferriss is 
the only white woman who ever went beyond 


Clingman or even ascended the Dome itself. 
She stayed at the Lufty Gap while her husband 
and a Carolina mountaineer of my acquaint- 
ance struggled through to Guyot and returned. 
Of this trip Mr. Ferriss sent me the following 

" We bought another axe of a moonshiner, 
and, with a week's provisions on our backs, one 
of the guides and I took the Consolidated 
American Black Bear and Ruffed Grouse Line 
for Mount Guyot, twenty miles farther by map 
measurement. The bears were in full posses- 
sion of the property, and we could get no infor- 
mation in the settlements, as the settlers do not 
travel this line. They did not know the names 
of the peaks other than as tops of the Great 
Smokies — knew nothing of the character of the 
country except that it was rough. The Tennes- 
seeans seem afraid of the mountains, and the 
Cherokees of the North Carolina side equally 
so; for, two miles from camp, all traces of man, 
except surveyors' marks, had disappeared. In 
the first two days we routed eight bears out of 
their nests and mud wallow^s, and they seemed 
to stay routed, for upon our return we found 
the blackberry crop unharvested and had a bag 
pudding — * duff ' — or what you call it. 

" A surveyor had run part of the line this 


year, which helped us greatly, and the bears had 
made well-beaten trails part of the way. In 
places they had mussed up the ground as much 
as a barnyard. We tried to follow the boundary 
line between the two States, which is exactly 
upon the top of the Smokies, but often missed 
it. The government [state] surveyor many 
years ago made two hacks upon the trees, but 
sometimes the linemen neglected to use their 
axes for half a mile or so. It took us three and 
one-half days to go, and two and one-half to 
return, and we arose with the morning star and 
worked hard all day. The last day and a half, 
going, there was nothing to guide us but the old 

" Equipped with government maps, a good 
compass, and a little conceit, I thought I could 
follow the boundary-line. In fact, at one time 
We intended to go through without a guide. A 
trail that runs through blackberry bushes two 
miles out of three is hard to follow. Then there 
was a huckleberry bush reaching to our waists 
growing thickly upon the ground as tomato 
vines, curled hard, and stubborn; and laurel 
much like a field of lilac bushes, crooked and 
strong as iron. In one place we walked fully a 
quarter of a mile over the tops of laurel bushes 
and these were ten or twelve feet in height, but 


blown over one way by the wind. Much of the 
trail was along rocky edges, sometimes but six 
inches or so Avide, but almost straight down on 
both sides for hundreds of feet. One night, 
delayed by lack of water, we did not camp till 
dark, and, finding a smooth spot, lay down with 
a small log on each side to hold us from rolling 
out of bed. When daylight came we found that, 
had we rolled over the logs, my partner would 
have dropped 500 feet into Tennessee and I 
would have dropped as far into North Caro- 
lina, unless some friendly tree top had caught 
us. Sometimes the mountain forked, and these 
ridges, concealed by the balsams, would not be 
seen. Then there were round knobs — and who 
can tell where the highest ridge lies on a round 
mountain or a ball? My woolen shirt was torn 
off to the shoulders, and my partner, who had 
started out with corduroys, stayed in the brush 
until I got him a pair of overalls from camp." 
Even to the west of Clingman a stranger is 
likely to find some desperately rough travel if 
he should stray from the trail that follows the 
divide. It is easy going for anyone in fair 
weather, but when cloud settles on the moun- 
tain, as it often does without warning, it may 
be so thick that one cannot see a tree ten feet 
away. Under such circumstances I have my- 


self floundered from daylight till dark through 
heart-breaking laurel thickets, and without a 
bite to eat, not knowing whither I was going 
except that it was toward the Little Tennessee 

In 1906 I spent the summer in a herders' hut 
on top of the divide, just west of the Locust 
Ridge (miscalled Chestnut Ridge on the map) , 
about six miles east of Thunderhead. This time 
I had a partner, and we had a glorious three 
months of it, nearly a mile above sea-level, and 
only half a day's climb from the nearest settle- 
ment. One day I was alone, Andy having gone 
down to Medlin for the mail. It had rained a 
good deal — in fact, there was a shower nearly 
every day throughout the summer, the only sem- 
blance of a dry season in the Smokies being the 
autumn and early winter. The nights were cold 
enough for fires and blankets, even In our well- 
chinked cabin. 

Well, I had finished my lonesome dinner, and 
was washing up, when I saw a man approach- 
ing. This was an event, for we seldom saw 
other men than our two selves. He was a lame 
man, wearing an iron extension on one foot, and 
he hobbled with a cane. He looked played-out 
and gaunt. T met him outside. He smiled as 
though I looked good to him, and asked with 



some eagerness, " Can I buy something to eat 

"No," I answered, "you can't buy anything 
here" — how his face fell! — "but I'll give you 
the best we have, and you're welcome." 

Then you should have seen that smile! 

He seemed to have just enough strength left 
to drag himself into the hut. I asked no ques- 
tions, though wondering what a cripple, evi- 
dently a gentleman, though in rather bad repair, 
was doing on top of the Smoky Mountains. It 
was plain that he had spent more than one night 
shelterless in the cold rain, and that he was quite 
famished. While I was baking the biscuit and 
cooking some meat, he told his story. This is 
the short of it: 

" I am a Canadian, McGill University man, 
electrician. My company sent me to Cincin- 
nati. I got a vacation of a couple of weeks, and 
thought I'd take a pedestrian tour. I can walk 
better than you'd think," and he tapped the 
short leg. 

I liked his grit. 

" I knew no place to go," he continued; "so 
I took a map and looked for what might be 
interesting country, not too far from Cincinnati. 
I picked out these mountains, got a couple of 


government topographical sheets, and, thinking 
they would serve like European ordnance maps, 
I had no fear of going astray. It was my plan 
to walk through to the Balsam Mountains, and 
so on to the Big Pigeon River. I went to Mary- 
ville, Tennessee, and there I was told that I 
would find a cabin every five or six miles along 
the summit from Thunderhead to the Balsams." 
I broke in abruptly: "Whoever told you 
that was either an impostor or an ignoramus. 
There are only four of these shacks on the 
whole Smoky range. Two of them, the Russell 
cabin and the Spencer place, you have already 
passed without knowing it. This is called the 
Hall cabin. None of these three are occupied 
save for a week or so in the fall when the 
cattle are being rounded up, or by chance, as 
my partner and I happen to be here now. 
Beyond this there is just one shack, at Siler's 
Meadow. It is down below the summit, hidden 
in timber, and you would never have seen it. 
Even if you had, you would have found it as 
bare as a last year's mouse nest, for nobody ever 
goes there except a few bear-hunters. From 
there onward for forty miles is an uninhabited 
wilderness so rough that you could not make 
seven miles a day in it to save your life, even- if 
you knew the course; and there is no trail at all. 




Those government maps are good and reliable 
to show the approaches to this wild country, but 
where you need them most they are good for 

" Then," said he, " if I had missed your cabin 
I would have starved to death, for I depended 
on finding a house to the eastward, and would 
have followed the trail till I dropped. I have 
been out in the laurel thickets, now, three days 
and two nights; so nothing could have induced 
me to leave this trail, once I^ found it, or until 
I could see out to a house on one side or other 
of the mountain." 

"You would see no house on either side from 
here to beyond Guyot, about forty miles. Had 
you no rations at all?" 

" I traveled light, expecting to find entertain- 
ment among the natives. Here is what I have 

He showed me a crumpled buckwheat flap- 
jack, a pinch of tea, and a couple of ounces of 

"I was saving them for the last extremity; 
have had nothing to eat since yesterday morn- 
ing. Drink the brandy, please; it came from 

"No, my boy, that liquor goes down your 
own throat instanter. You're the chap that 


needs it. This coffee will boil now in a minute. 
I won't give you all the food you want, for it 
wouldn't be prudent; but by and by you shall 
have a bellyful." 

Then, as well as he could, he sketched the 
route he had followed. Where the trail from 
Tennessee crosses from Thunderhead to Haw 
Gap he had swerved off from the divide, and 
he discovered his error somewhere in the neigh- 
borhood of Blockhouse. There, instead of re- 
tracing his steps, he sought a short-cut by plung- 
ing down to the headwaters of Haw Creek, thus 
worming deeper and deeper into the devil's nest. 
One more day would have finished him. When 
I told him that the trip from Clingman to 
Guyot would be hard work for a party of expe- 
rienced mountaineers, and that it would prob- 
ably take them a week, during which time they 
would have to pack all supplies on their own 
backs, he agreed that his best course would be 

down into Carolina and out to the railroad. 

* * * * * 

Of animal life in the mountains I was most 
entertained by the raven. This extraordinary 
bird was the first creature Noah liberated from 
the ark — he must have known, even at that early 
period of nature study, that it was the most saga- 
cious of all winged things. Or perhaps Noah 


and the raven did not get on well together and 
he rid himself of the pest at first opportunity. 
Doubtless there could have been no peace 
aboard a craft that harbored so inquisitive and 
talkative a fowl. Anyway, the wild raven has 
been superlatively shy of man ever since the 

Probably there is no place south of Labrador 
where our raven (Corvtis corax principalis) is 
seen so often as in the Smokies; and yet, even 
here, a man may haunt the tops for weeks with- 
out sight or sound of the ebon mystery — then, 
for a few days, they will be common. On the 
southeast side of the Locust Ridge, opposite 
Huggins's Hell, between Bone Valley and the 
main fork of Hazel Creek, there is a " Raven's 
Cliff" where they winter and breed, using the 
same nests year after year. Occasionally one is 
trapped, with bloody groundhog for bait; but 
I have yet to meet a man who has succeeded in 
shooting one. 

If the raven's body be elusive his tongue as- 
suredly is not. No other animal save man has 
anything like his vocal range. The raven 
croaks, clucks, caws, chuckles, squalls, pleads, 
" pooh-poohs," grunts, barks, mimics small 
birds, hectors, cajoles — yes, pulls a cork, whets 
a scythe, files a saw — with his throat. As is 


well known, ravens can be taught human speech, 
like parrots ; and I am told they show the same 
preference for bad words — which, I think, is 
quite in character with their reputation as 
thieves and butchers. However, I may be prej- 
udiced, seeing that the raven's favorite dainties 
for his menu are the eyes of living fawns and 

A stranger in these mountains will be sur- 
prised at the apparent scarcity of game animals. 
It is not unusual for one to hunt all day in an 
absolute wilderness, where he sees never a fresh 
track of man, and not get a shot at anything fit 
to eat. The cover is so dense that one still- 
hunting (going without dogs) has poor chance 
of spying the game that lurks about him; and 
there really is little of it by comparison with 
such hunting fields as the Adirondacks, Maine, 
Canada, where game has been conserved for 
many years. It used to be the same up there. 
The late W. J. Stillman, writing in 1877 of 
the Maine woods, said: 

" The most striking feature of the forest, after one has 
become habituated to the gloom, the pathlessness, and the 
apparent impenetrability of the screen it forms around him, 
is the absence of animal life. You may wander for hours 
without seeing a living creature. . . . One thinks of 


the woods and the wild beasts; yet in all the years of my 
wilderness living I can catalogue the wild creatures other 
than squirrels, grouse, and small birds (never plenty, gen- 
erally very rare) which I have accidentally encountered and 
seen while wandering for hunting or mere pastime in the 
wild forest: one deer, one porcupine, one marten (com- 
monly called sable), and maybe half a dozen hares. You 
may walk hours and not see a living creature larger than 
a fly, for days together and not see a grouse, a squirrel, or 
a bird larger than the Canada jay. . . . Lands running 
with game are like those flowing with milk and honey ; and 
when the sporting books tell you that game is abundant, 
don't imagine that you are assured from starvation thereby. 
I have been reduced, in a country where deer were swarm- 
ing, to live several days together on corn meal." 

It is much the same to-day in our Appalach- 
ian wilderness, where no protection worthy the 
name has ever been aflforded the game and fish 
since Indian times. There is a class of woods- 
loafers, very common here, that ranges the for- 
est at all seasons with single-barrel shotguns or 
" hog rifles," killing bearing females as well as 
legitimate game, fishing at night, even using 
dynamite in the streams; and so, in spite of the 
fact that there is no better game harborage 
granted by Nature on our continent than the 
Carolina mountains, the deer are all but exter- 
minated in most districts, turkeys and even 
squirrels are rather scarce, and good trout fish- 


ing is limited to stocked waters or streams flow- 
ing through virgin forest. The only game ani- 
mal that still holds his own is the black bear, 
and he endures in few places other than the 
roughest districts, such as that southwest of the 
Sugarland Mountains, where laurel and cliffs 
daunt all but the hardiest of men. 

The only venomous snakes in the mountains 
are rattlers and copperheads, the former com- 
mon, the latter rare. The chance of being bit- 
ten by one is about as remote as that of being 
struck by lightning — either accident might hap- 
pen, of course. The mountaineers have an 
absurd notion that the little lizard so common 
in the hills is rank " pizen." Oddly enough, 
they call it a " scorpion." 

From those two pests of the North Woods, 
black-flies and mosquitoes, the Smokies are 
mercifully exempt. At least there are no mos- 
quitoes that bite or sing, except down in the 
river valleys where they have been introduced 
by railroad trains — and even there they are but 
a feeble folk. The reason is that in the moun- 
tains there is almost no standing water where 
they can breed. 

On the other hand, the common house-fly is 
extraordinarily numerous and persistent — a 


daily curse, even on top of Smoky. I imagine 
this is due to the wet climate, as in Ireland. 
Minute gnats (the " punkies " or " no-see-ums " 
of the North) are also offensively present in 
trout-fishing time. And every cabin is alive / 
with fleas. A hundred nights I have anointed 
myself with citronella from head to foot, and 
outsmelt a cheap barber-shop, to escape their 
plague. In a tent, and without dogs, one can 
be immune. 

In most years there are very few chiggers, 
except on pine ridges. They are worse along 
rivers than in the mountains. The ticks of this 
country are not numerous, and seldom fasten 
on man. 

The climate of the Carolina mountains is 
pleasantly cool in summer. Even at low alti- 
tudes (1,600 to 2,000 feet) the nights generally 
are refreshing. It may be hot in the sun, but 
always cool in the shade. The air is drier (less 
relative humidity) than in the lowlands, not- 
withstanding that there is greater rainfall here 
than elsewhere in the United States outside of 
Florida and the Puget Sound country. The 
annual rainfall varies a great deal according to 
locality, being least at Asheville (42 inches) 
and greatest on the southeastern slope of the 



Blue Ridge, where as much as 105 inches has 
been recorded in a year. The average rainfall 
of the whole region is 73 inches a year.* 

In general the mornings are apt to be lowery, 
with fogs hanging low until, say, 9 o'clock, so 
that one cannot predict weather for the day. 
Heavy dews remain on the bushes until about 
the same hour. 

The winters are short. What Northerners 
would call cold weather is not expected until 
Christmas, and generally it is gone by the end 
of February. Snow sometimes falls on the 
higher mountains by the first of October, and 
the last snow may linger there until April (ex- 
ceptionally it falls in May). Tornadoes are 
unknown here, but sometimes a hurricane w^ill 
sweep the upper ranges. On April 19, 1900, a 
blizzard from the northwest struck the Smokies. 
In twenty minutes everything was frozen. At 
Siler's Meadow seventeen cattle climbed upon 
each other for warmth and froze to death in a 
solid hecatomb. A herdsman who was out at 
the time, and narrowly escaped a similar fate, 
assured me that " that was the beatenest snow- 
storm ever I seen." In the valleys there may 
be a few days in January and February 

* Average annual rainfall of New York City, 44 inches; 
of Glencoe, in the Scotch Highlands, nearly 130 inches. 

Scouting in the Ljurel 
(The Autlior.) 


when the mercury drops to zero or a few de- 
grees lower. On the high peaks, of course, the 
winter cold often is intense, and on the sunless 
north side of Clingman there are overhangs or 
crevices where a little ice may be found the year 

Undoubtedly there Is vast mineral wealth 
hidden in the Carolina mountains. A greater 
variety of minerals has been found here than 
in any other State save Colorado. But, for the 
present, it is a hard country to prospect in, 
owing to the thick covering of the forest floor. 
Not only is the underbrush very dense, but be- 
neath it there generally is a thick stratum of 
clay overlaying the rocks, even on steep slopes. 
Gold has been found in numberless places, but 
finely disseminated. I do not know a locality 
In the mountains proper where a working vein 
has been discovered. At my cabin I did just 
enough panning to get a notion that If I could 
stand working in icy water ten hours a day I 
might average a dollar in yellow dust by It. 
The adjacent copper mine carries considerable 
gold. Silver and lead are not common, so far 
as known, but there are many good copper and 
iron properties. Gems are mined profitably in 
several of the western counties. The corundum, 
mica, talc, and monazite arc, I believe, unex- 


celled in the United States. Building stone is 
abundant, and there is fine marble in various 
places. Kaolin is shipped out in considerable 
quantities. The rocks chiefly are gneisses, gran- 
ites, metamorphosed marbles, quartzites, and 
slates, all of them far too old to bear fossils or 



^ C /^^ IT up, pup! you've scrouged right in 
&j- hyur in front of the fire. You Dred! 
what makes you so blamed conten- 

Little John shoved both dogs into a corner, 
and strove to scrape some coals from under a 
l)eech forestick that glowed almost hot enough 
to melt brass. 

" This is the wust coggled-up fire I ever seed, 
to fry by. Bill, hand me some Old Ned from 
that suggin o' mine." 

A bearded hunchback reached his long arm 
to a sack that hung under our rifles, drew out 
a chuck of salt pork, and began slicing it with 
his jackknife. On inquiry I learned that "Old 
Ned " is merely slang for fat pork, but that 
"suggin" or "sujjit" (the u pronounced like 
00 in look) is true mountain dialect for a pouch, 
valise, or carryall, its et3^mology being some- 
thing to puzzle over. 



Four dogs growled at each other under a long 
bunk of poles and hay that spanned one side of 
our cabin. The fire glared out upon the middle 
of an unfloored and windowless room. Deep 
shadows clung to the walls and benches, char- 
itably concealing much dirt and disorder left 
by previous occupants, much litter of our own 

At last we were on a saddle of the divide, a 
mile above sea-level, in a hut built years ago 
for temporary lodgment of cattle-men herding 
on the grassy '' balds " of the Smokies. A sag- 
ging clapboard roof covered its two rooms and 
the open space between them that we called our 
" entry." The State line between North Caro- 
lina and Tennessee ran through this uninclosed 
hallway. The Carolina room had a puncheon 
floor and a clapboard table, also better bunks 
than its mate; but there had risen a stiff south- 
erly gale that made the chimney smoke so abom- 
inably that we were forced to take quarters in 
the neighbor State. 

Granville lifted the lid from a big Dutch 
oven and reported " Bread's done." 

There was a flash in the frying-pan, a curse 
and a puff from Little John. The coffee-pot 
boiled over. We gathered about the hewn 
benches that served for tables, and sat a la Turc 


upon the ground. For some time there was no 
sound but the gale without and the munching 
of ravenous men. 

" If this wind '11 only cease afore mornin', 
we'll git us a bear to-morrow." 

A powerful gust struck the cabin, by way of 
answer; a great roaring surged up from the gulf 
of Defeat, from Desolation, and from the other 
forks of Bone Valley — clamor of ten thousand 
trees struggling with the blast. 

" Hit's gittin' wusser." 

" Any danger of this roost being blown off 
the mountain?" I inquired. 

" Hit's stood hyur twenty year through all the 
storms; I reckon it can stand one more night 
of it." 

''A man couldn't walk upright, outside the 
cabin," I asserted, thinking of the St. Louis 
tornado, in which I had lain flat on my belly, 
clinging to an iron post. 

The hunchback turned to me with a grave 
face. " I've seed hit blow, here on top o' Smoky, 
till a boss couldn't stand up agin it. You'll spy, 
to-morrow, whar several trees has been wind- 
throwed and busted to kindlin'." 

I recalled that several, in the South, means 
many — " a good many," as our own tongues 
phrase it. 


"Oh, shucks! Bill Cope," put in "Doc" 
Jones, "whut do you-uns know about wind- 
storms? Now, I've hed some experiencin' uj) 
hyur that '11 do to tell about. You remember 
the big storm three year ago, come grass, when 
the cattle all huddled up a-top o' each other and 
friz in one pile, solid." 

Bill grunted an affirmative. 

"Wal, sir, I was a-herdin', over at the Spencer 
Place, and was out on Thunderhead when the 
wind sprung up. Thar come one turrible vyg'- 
rous blow that jest nacherally lifted the ground. 
I went up in the sky, my coat ripped off, and 
I went a-sailin' end-over-ecd." 


" Yes. About half an hour later, I lit spang 
in the mud, way down yander in Tuckaleechee 
Cove — yes, sir: ten mile as the crow flies, and a 
mile deeper 'n trout-fish swim." 

There was silence for a moment. Then Little 
John spoke up: " I mind about that time. Doc; 
but I disremember which buryin'-ground they- 
all planted ye in." 

"Planted! Me? Huh! But I had one tor- 
mentin' time findin' my hat!" 

The cabin shook under a heavier blast, to 
match Doc's yarn. 

"Old Wind-maker's blowin' liars out o' 


North Car'lina. Hang on to yer hat, Doc! 
Whoop! hear 'em a-comin'I " 

" Durn this blow, anyhow! No bear '11 cross 
the mountain sich a night as this." 

" Can't we hunt down on the Carolina side? " 
I asked. 

"That's whar we're goin' to drive; but hit's 
no use if the bear don't come over." 

" How is that? Do they sleep in one State 
and eat in the other?" 

"Yes: you see, the Tennessee side of the 
mountain is powerful steep and laurely, so 't 
man nor dog cain't git over it in lots o' places; 
that's whar the bears den. But the mast, sich 
as acorns and beech and hickory nuts, is mostly 
on the Car'lina side; that's whar they hafter 
come to feed. So, when it blows like this, they 
stay at home and suck their paws till the 
weather clars." 

" So we'll have to do, at this rate." 

" I'll go see whut the el-e-ments looks like." 

We arose from our squatting postures. John 
opened the little clapboard door, which swung 
violently backward as another gust boomed 
against the cabin. Dust and hot ashes scattered 
in every direction. The dogs sprang up, one 
encroached upon another, and they flew at each 
other's throats. They were powerful beasts. 


dangerous to man as well as to the brutes they 
were trained to fight ; but John was their master, 
and he soon booted them into surly subjection. 

" The older dog don't ginerally raise no ruc- 
tion; hit's the younger one that's ill," by which 
he meant vicious. " You, Coaly, you'll git some 
o' that meanness shuck outen you if you tackle 
an old she-bear to-morrow!" 

"Has the young dog ever fought a bear?" 

"No; he don't know nothin'; but I reckon 
he'll pick up some larnin' in the next two, three 

" Have these dogs got the Plott strain? I've 
been told that the Plott hounds are the best bear 
dogs in the country." 

" 'Tain't so," snorted John. " The Plott curs 
are the best: that is, half hound, half cur — 
though what we-uns calls the cur, in this case, 
raelly comes from a big furrin dog that I don't 
rightly know the breed of. Fellers, you can 
talk as you please about a streak o' the cur spilin' 
a dog; but I know hit ain't so — not for bear 
fightin' in these mountains, whar you cain't fol- 
ler up on hossback, but hafter do your own 

"What is the reason, John?" 

" Waal, hit's like this: a plumb cur, of course, 
cain't f oiler a cold track — he just runs by sight; 


and he won't hang — he quits. But, t'other way, 
no hound '11 raelly fight a bear — hit takes a big 
severe dog to do that. Hounds has the best 
noses, and they'll run a bear all day and night, 
and the next day, too ; but they won't never tree 
■ — they're afeared to close in. Now, look at 
them dogs o' mine. A cur ain't got no dew- 
claws — them dogs has. My dogs can foller ary 
trail, same's a hound; but they'll run right in 
on the varmint, snappin' and chawin' and wor- 
ryin' him till he gits so mad you can hear his 
tushes pop half a mile. He cain't run away — 
he haster stop every bit, and fight. Finally he 
gits so tired and het up that he trees to rest 
hisself. Then we-uns ketches up and finishes 

" Mebbe you-uns don't know that a dew- 
clawed dog is snake-proof " 

But somebody, thinking that dog-talk had 
gone far enough, produced a bottle of soothing- 
syrup that was too new to have paid tax. Then 
we discovered that there was musical talent, of 
a sort, in Little John. He cut a pigeon-wing, 
twirled around with an imaginary banjo, and 
sang in a quaint minor: 

Did you ever see the devil, 
With his pitchfork and ladle, 
And his old iron shovel, 


And his old gourd head? 
O, I will go to meetin', 
And I luill go to meetin', 
Yes, I will go to meetin', 
In an old tin pan. 

Other songs followed, with utter Irrelevance 
— mere snatches from " ballets " composed, 
mainly, by the mountaineers themselves, though 
some dated back to a long-forgotten age when 
the British ancestors of these Carolina woods- 
men were battling with lance and long-bow. It 
was one of modern and local origin that John 
was singing when there came a diversion from 
without — 

La-a-ay down, boys, 

Le's take a nap: 
Thar's goin' to be trouble 

In the Cumberland Gap — 

Our ears were stunned by one sudden thun- 
dering crash. The roof rose visibly, as though 
pushed upward from within. In an instant we 
were blinded by moss and dried mud — the 
chinking blown from between the logs of our 
shabby cabin. Dred and Coaly cowered as 
though whipped, while " Doc's " little hound 
slunk away in the keen misery of fear. We men 


looked at each other with lowered eyelids and 
the grim smile that denotes readiness, though 
no special eagerness, for dissolution. Beyond 
the " gant-lot " we could hear trees and limbs 
popping like skirmishers in action. 

Then that tidal wave of air swept by. The 
roof settled again with only a few shingles miss- 
ing. We went to " redding up." Squalls broke 
against the mountainside, hither and yon, like 
the hammer of Thor testing the foundations of 
the earth. But they were below us. Here, on 
top, there was only the steady drive of a great 
surge of wind; and speech was possible once 

" Fellers, you want to mark whut you dream 
about, to-night: hit'll shore come true to-mor- 

"Yes: but you mustn't tell whut yer dream 
was till the hunt's over, or It'll spile the charm." 

There ensued a grave discussion of dream- 
lore. In which the Illiterates of our party de- 
clared solemn faith. If one dreamt of blood, 
he would surely see blood the next day. An- 
other lucky sign for a hunter was to dream of 
quarreling with a woman, for that meant a she- 
bear; It was favorable to dream of clear water, 
but muddy water meant trouble. 

The wind died away. When we went out for 


a last observation of the weather we found the 
air so clear that the lights of Knoxville were 
plainly visible, in the north-northwest, thirty- 
two miles in an air line. Not another light was 
to be seen on earth, although in some directions 
we could scan for nearly a hundred miles. The 
moon shone brightly. Things looked rather 

favorable for the morrow, after all. 



I awoke to a knowledge that somebody had 
built a roaring fire and was stirring about. Be- 
tween the cabin logs one looked out upon a 
starry sky and an almost pitch-dark world. 
What did that pottering vagabond mean by 
arousing us in the middle of the night? But I 
was hungry. Everybody half arose on elbows 
and blinked about. Then we got up, each after 
his fashion, except one scamp who resumed 

" Whar's that brekfust you're yellin' about? " 

" Hit's for you-uns to help git! I knowed I 
couldn't roust ye no other way. Here, you, go 
down to the spring and fetch water. Rustle out, 
boys; we've got to git a soon start if you want 
bear brains an' liver for supper." 

The " soon start " tickled me into good humor. 


Our dogs were curled together under the long 
bunk, having popped indoors as soon as the way 
was opened. Somebody trod on Coaly's tail. 
Coaly snapped Dred. Instantly there was ac- 
tion between the four. It is interesting to ob- 
serve what two or three hundred pounds of dog 
can do to a ramshackle berth with a man on top 
of it. Poles and hay and ragged quilts flew in 
every direction. Sleepy Matt went down in the 
midst of the melee, swearing valiantly. I went 
out and hammered ice out of the wash-basin 
while Granville and John quelled the riot. 
Presently our frying-pans sputtered and the 
huge coffee-pot began to get up steam. 

"Waal, who dreamt him a good dream?" 

" I did," affirmed the writer. " I dreamt that 
I had an old colored woman by the throat and 
was choking dollars out of her mouth " 

"Good la!" exclaimed four men in chorus; 
" you hadn't orter a-told." 

" Why? Wasn't that a lovely dream? " 

" Hit means a she-bear, shore as a cap- 
shootin' gun; but you've done spiled it all by 
tellin'. Mebbe somebody'll git her to-day, but 
you won't — your chanct is ruined." 

So the reader will understand why, in this 
veracious narrative, I cannot relate any heroic 


exploits of my own In battling with Ursus 
Major. And so you, ambitious one, when you 
go Into the Smokies after that long-lost bear, 
remember these two cardinal points of the 

(i) Dream that you are fighting some poor old colored 
woman. (That is easy: the victuals you get will fix up 
your dream, all right.) And — 

(2) Keep your mouth shut about it. 

There was still no sign of rose-color In the 
eastern sky when we sallied forth. The ground, 
to use a mountaineer's expression, was " all 
spewed up with frost." Rime crackled under- 
foot and our mustaches soon stiffened in the icy 

It was settled that Little John Cable and the 
hunchback Cope should take the dogs far down 
Into Bone Valley and start the drive, leaving 
Granville, " Doc," Matt, and myself to picket 
the mountain. I was given a stand about half 
a mile east of the cabin, and had but a vague 
notion of where the others went. 

By jinks, it was cold! I built a little fire be- 
tween the buttressing roots of a big mountain 
oak, but still my toes and fingers were numb. 
This was the 25th of November, and we were 
at an altitude where sometimes frost forms in 


July. The other men were more thinly clad 
than I, and with not a stitch of wool beyond 
their stockings; but they seemed to revel in the 
keen air. I wasted some pity on Cope, who had 
no underwear worthy of the name; but after- 
wards I learned that he would not have worn 
more clothes if they had been given him. Many 
a night my companions had slept out on the 
mountain without blanket or shelter, when the 
ground froze and every twig in the forest was 
coated with rime from the winter fog. 

Away out yonder beyond the mighty bulk of 
Clingman Dome, which, black with spruce and 
balsam, looked like a vast bear rising to con- 
template the northern world, there streaked the 
first faint, nebulous hint of dawn. Presently the 
big bear's head was tipped w^ith a golden crown 
flashing against the scarlet fires of the firma- 
ment, and the earth awoke. 

A rustling some hundred yards below me 
gave signal that the gray squirrels were on their 
way to water. Out of a tree overhead hopped 
a mountain "boomer" (red squirrel), and 
down he came, eyed me, and stopped. Cocking 
his head to one side he challenged peremp- 
torily: "Who are you? Stump? Stump? 
Not a stump. What the deuce!" 


I moved my hand. 

"Lawk — the booger-mani Run, run, run!" 

Somewhere from the sky came a strange, half- 
human note, as of someone chiding: " Wal~ 
lace, IFal-lace, Wat! " I could get no view for 
the trees. Then the voice flexibly changed to a 
deep-toned " Co-logne, Qo-logne, Qo-lognel' 
that rang like a bell through the forest aisles. 

Two names uttered distinctly from the air I 
Two scenes conjured in a breath, vivid but un- 
related as in dreams: Wallace — an iron-bound 
Scottish coast; Cologne — tall spires, and cliffs 
along the Rhine! What magic had flashed such 
pictures upon a remote summit of the Smoky 

The weird speaker sailed into view — a raven. 
Forward it swept with great speed of ebon 
wings, fairly within gunshot for one teasing 
moment. Then, as if to mock my gaping stupor, 
it hurtled like a hawk far into the safe distance, 
whence it flung back loud screams of defiance 
and chuckles of derision. 

As the morning drew on, I let the fire die to 
ashes and basked lazily in the sun. Not a sound 
had I heard from the dogs. My hoodoo was 
working malignly. Well, let it work. I was 
comfortable now, and that old bear could go 
to any other doom she preferred. It was pleas- 

Skinning a frozen bear 


ant enough to lie here alone in the forest and 
be free! Aye, it was good to be alive, and to be 
far, far away from the broken bottles and old 
tin cans of civilization. 

For many a league to the southward clouds 
covered all the valleys in billows of white, from 
which rose a hundred mountain tops, like 
islands in a tropic ocean. My fancy sailed 
among and beyond them, beyond the horizon's 
rim, even unto those far seas that I had sailed 
in my youth, to the old times and the old friends 
that I should never see again. 

But a forenoon is long-drawn-out when one 
has breakfasted before dawn, and has nothing 
to do but sit motionless in the woods and watch 
and listen. I got to fingering my rifle trigger 
impatiently and wishing that a wild Thanks- 
giving gobbler might blunder into view. 
Squirrels made ceaseless chatter all around my 
stand. Large hawks shrilled by me within 
tempting range, whistling like spent bullets. A 
groundhog sat up on a log and whistled, too, 
after a manner of his own. He was so near 
that I could see his nose wiggle. A skunk wad- 
dled around for twenty minutes, and once came 
so close that I thought he would nibble my boot. 
I was among old mossy beeches, scaled with 
polyphori, and twisted into postures of torture 


by their battles with the storms. Below, among 
chestnuts and birches, I could hear the t-wee, 
t-wee of " joree-birds " (towhees), which win- 
ter in the valleys. Incessantly came the chip- 
chip-cluck of ground squirrels, the saucy bark 
of the grays, and great chirruping among the 
" boomers," which had ceased swearing and 
were hard at w^ork. 

Far off on my left a rifle cracked. I pricked 
up and listened intently, but there was never a 
yelp from a dog. Since it is a law of the chase 
to fire at nothing smaller than turkeys, lest big 
game be scared away, this shot might mean a 
gobbler. I knew that Matt Hyde could not, to 
save his soul, sit ten minutes on a stand without 
calling turkeys (and he could call them, with 
his unassisted mouth, better than anyone I ever 
heard perform with leaf or wing-bone or any 
other contrivance). 

Thus the slow hours dragged along. I 
yearned mightily to stretch my legs. Finally, 
being certain that no drive would approach my 
stand that day, I ambled back to the hut and 
did a turn at dinner-getting. Things were 
smoking, and smelt good, by the time four of 
our men turned up, all of them dog-tired and 
disappointed, but stoical. 

" That pup Coaly chased off atter a wildcat," 


blurted John. " We held the old dogs together 
and let him rip. Then Dred started a deer. It 
was that old buck that everybody's shot at, and 
missed, this three year back. I'd believe he's 
a hant if 't v^asn't for his tracks — they're the 
biggest I ever seen. He must weigh two hun- 
derd and fifty. But he's a foxy cuss. Tuk right 
down the bed o' Desolation, up the left prong 
of Roaring Fork, right through the Devil's 
Race-path (how a deer can git through thar I 
don't see!), crossed at the Meadow Gap, went 
down Eagle Creek, and by now he's in the Little 
Tennessee. That buck, shorely to God, has 
wings! " 

We were at table in the Carolina room when 
Matt Hyde appeared. Sure enough, he bore a 
turkey hen. 

" I was callin' a gobbler when this fool thing 
showed up. I fired a shoot as she riz in the 
air, but only bruk her wing. She made off on 
her legs like the devil whoppin' out fire. I run, 
an' she run. Guess I run her half a mile 
through all-fired thickets. She piped ^ Quit — 
quit' but I said, ' I'll see you in hell afore I 
quit! ' and the chase resumed. Finally I 
knocked her over with a birch stob, and here 
we are." 

Matt ruefully surveyed his almost denuded 


legs, evidence of his chase. " Boys," said he, 
" I'm nigh breechless! " 

-:i:- -:iJ * * * 

None but native-born mountaineers could 
have stood the strain of another drive that day, 
for the country that Cope and Cable had been 
through was fearful, especially the laurel up 
Roaring Fork and Killpeter Ridge. But the 
stamina of these " withey " little men was even 
more remarkable than their endurance of cold. 
After a small slice of fried pork, a chunk of 
half-baked johnny-cake, and a pint or so of 
coffee, they were as fresh as ever. 

What soldiers these fellows would make, 
under leadership of some backwoods Napoleon 
who could hold them together! — some man like 
Daniel Morgan of the Revolution, who was one 
of them, yet greater! 

I had made the coffee strong, and it was good 
stuff that I had brought from home. After his 
first deep draught. Little John exclaimed: 

" Hah ! boys, that coffee hits whar ye hold it ! " 

I thought that a neat compliment from a 

We took new stands ; but the afternoon passed 
without incident to those of us on the mountain 
tops. I returned to camp about five o'clock, and 
was surprised to see three of our men lugging 


across the " gant-lot " * toward the cabin a small 
female bear. 

'' Hyur's yer old nigger woman," shouted 

The hunters showed no elation — in fact, they 
looked sheepish — and I suspected a nigger in 
the woodpile. 

" How's this? I didn't hear any drive." 

"There wa'n't none." 

"Then where did you get your bear?" 

"In one of Wit Hensley's traps, dum him! 
Boys, I wish t' we hed roasted the temper outen 
them trap-springs, like we talked 0' doin'." 

" Was the bear alive? " 

"Live as a hot coal. See the pup's head!" 

I examined Coaly, who looked sick. The 
flesh was torn from his lower jaw and hung 
down a couple of inches. Two holes in the top 
of his head showed where the bear's tusks had 
tried to crack his skull. 

" When the other dogs found her, he rushed 
right in. She hadn't been trapped more'n a few 

* Gant-lot: a fenced enclosure into which cattle are driven 
after cutting them out from tliose of other owners. So 
called because the mountain cattle run wild, feeding only 
on grass and browse, and " they couldn't travel well to 
market when filled up on green stuff: so they're penned up 
to git gant and nimble." 


hours, and she larned Coaly somethin' about the 
bear business." 

" Won't this spoil him for hunting here- 

" Not if he has his daddy's and mammy's grit. 
We'll know by to-morrow whether he's a shore- 
enough bear dog; for I've larned now whar 
they're crossin' — seed sign a-plenty and it's 
spang fraish. Coaly, old boy! you-uns won't be 
so feisty and brigaty atter this, will ye!" 

'^John, what do those two words mean?" 

'^ Good la! whar was you fotch up? Them's 
common. They mean nigh about the same 
thing, only there's a differ. When I say that 
Doc Jones thar is brigaty among women-folks, 
hit means that he's stuck on hisself and wants 
to show off " 

" And John Cable's sulkin' around with his 
nose out o' jint," interjected " Doc." 

" Feisty," proceeded the interpreter, " feisty 
means when a feller's allers wigglin' about, 
wantin' ever'body to see him, like a kid when 
the preacher comes. You know a feist is one 
o' them little bitty dogs that ginerally runs on 
three legs and pretends a whole lot." 

All of us were indignant at the setter of the 
trap. It had been hidden in a trail, with no 


sign to warn a man from stepping Into It. In 
Tennessee, I was told, It Is a penitentiary offense 
to set out a bear trap. We agreed that a similar 
law ought to be passed as soon as possible in 
North Carolina. 

" It's only two years ago," said Granville to 
me, " that Jasper Millington, an old man living 
on the Tennessee side, started acrost the moun- 
tain to get work at the Everett mine, where you 
live. Not fur from where we are now, he 
stepped into a bear trap that was hid In the 
leaves, like this one. It broke his leg, and he 
starved to death in It." 

Despite our Indignation meeting, it was de- 
cided to carry the trapped bear's hide to Hens- 
ley, and for us to use only the meat as recom- 
pense for trouble, to say nothing of risk to life 
and limb. Such Is the mountaineers' regard for 
property rights! 

The animal we had Inglorlously won was 
undersized, weighing scant 175 pounds. The. 
average weight of Smoky Mountain bears Is not 
great, but occasionally a very large beast is 
killed. Matt Hyde told us that he killed one 
on the Welch Divide In 1901, the meat of 
which, dressed, without the hide, weighed 434 
pounds, and the hide "squared eight feet" 


when stretched for drying. "Doc" Jones kill- 
ed a bear that was ^'kivered with fat, five 
inches thick.'* 

Afterwards I took pains to ask the most fa- 
mous bear hunters of our region what were the 
largest bears they had personally killed. Uncle 
Jimmy Crawford, of the Balsam Mountains, 
estimated his largest at 500 pounds gross, and 
the hide of another that he had killed weighed 
forty pounds after three days' drying. Quill 
Rose, of Eagle Creek, said that, after stripping 
the hide from one of his bears, he took the fresh 
skin by the ears and raised it as high as he could 
reach above his head, and that four inches of the 
butt end of the hide (not legs) trailed on the 
ground. " And," he added severely, " thar's no 
lie about it." Quill is six feet one and one-half 
inches tall. Black Bill Walker, of the middle 
prong of Little River (Tennessee side), told 
me " The biggest one I ever saw killed had a 
hide that measured ten feet from nose to rump, 
stretched for drying. The biggest I ever killed 
myself measured nine and a half feet, same way, 
and weighed a good four hunderd net, which, 
allowin' for hide, blood, and entrails, would run 
full five hunderd live weight." 

Within the past two years two bears of about 
500 pounds each have been killed in Swain and 
Graham counties, the Cables getting one of 


them. The veteran hunters that I have named 
have killed their hundreds of bears and are men 
superior to silly exaggeration. In the Smoky 
Mountains the black bear, like most of the trees, 
attains its fullest development, and that it occa- 
sionally reaches a weight of 500 pounds when 
"hog fat" is beyond reasonable doubt, though 
the average would not be more than half that 


* * * * * 

We spent the evening in debate as to where 
the next drive should be made. Some favored 
moving six miles eastward, to the old mining 
shack at Siler's Meadow, and trying the head- 
waters of Forney's Creek, around Rip Shin 
Thicket and the Gunstick Laurel, driving to- 
wards Clingman Dome and over into the bleak 
gulf, southwest of the Sugarland Mountains, 
that I had named Godforsaken — a title that 
stuck. We knew there were bears in that re- 
gion, though it was a desperately rough country 
to hunt in. 

But John and the hunchback had found 
'' sign " in the opposite direction. Bears were 
crossing from Little River in the neighborhood 
of Thunderhead and Briar Knob, coming up 
just west of the Devil's Court House and 
" using " around Block House, Woolly Ridge, 


Bear Pen, and thereabouts. The motion car- 
ried, and we adjourned to bed. 

We breakfasted on bear meat, the remains of 
our Thanksgiving turkey, and wheat bread 
shortened with bear's grease until it was light 
as a feather; and I made tea. It was the first 
time that Little John ever saw " store tea." He 
swallowed some of it as if it had been boneset, 
under the impression that it was some sort of 
" yerb " that would be good for his insides. 
Without praising its flavor, he asked what it had 
cost, and, when I told him " a dollar a pound," 
reckoned that it was "rich man's medicine"; 
said he preferred dittany or sassafras or golden- 
rod. " Doc " Jones opined that it " looked yal- 
ler," and he even affirmed that it " tasted yaller." 

" Waal, people," exclaimed Matt, " I 'low 
I've done growed a bit, atter that mess o' meat. 
Le's be movin'." 

It was a hard pull for me, climbing up the 
rocky approach to Briar Knob. This was my 
first trip to the main divide, and my heart was 
not yet used to mountain climbing. 

The boys were anxious for me to get a shot. 
I was paying them nothing; it was share-and- 
share alike; but their neighborly kindness 
moved them to do their best for the out- 


So they put me on what was probably the 
best stand for the day. It was above the Fire- 
scald, a brule or burnt-over space on the steep 
southern side of the ridge between Briar Knob 
and Laurel Top, overlooking the grisly slope 
of Killpeter. Here I could both see and hear 
an uncommonly long distance, and if the bear 
went either east or west I would have timely 

This Fire-scald, by the way, is a famous place 
for wildcats. Once in a blue moon a lynx is 
killed in the highest zone of the Smokies, up 
among the balsams and spruces, where both the 
flora and fauna, as well as the climate, resemble 
those of the Canadian woods. Our native hunt- 
ers never heard the word lynx, but call the ani- 
mal a " catamount." Wolves and panthers used 
to be common here, but it is a long time since 
either has been killed in this region, albeit im- 
pressionable people see wolf tracks or hear a 
" pant'er" scream every now and then. 

I had shivered on the mountain top for a 
couple of hours, hearing only an occasional yelp 
from the dogs, which had been working in the 
thickets a mile or so below mc, when suddenly 
there burst forth the devil of a racket. 

On came the chase, right in my direction. 
Presently I could distinguish the different 


notes: the deep bellow of old Dred, the hound- 
like baying of Rock and Coaly, and little 
Towse's feisty yelp. 

I thought that the bear might chance the com- 
paratively open space of the Fire-scald, because 
there were still some ashes on the ground that 
would dust the dogs' nostrils and throw them 
off the scent. And such, I believe, was his in- 
tention. But the dogs caught up with him. 
They nipped him fore and aft. Time after 
time he shook them off; but they were true bear 
dogs, and, like Matt Hyde after the turkey, they 
knew no such word as quit. 

I took a last squint at my rifle sights, made 
sure there was a cartridge in the chamber, and 
then felt my ears grow as I listened. Suddenly 
the chase swerved at a right angle and took 
straight up the side of Saddle-back. Either the 
bear w^ould tree, or he would try to smash on 
through to the low rhododendron of the Devil's 
Court House, where dogs who followed might 
break their legs. I girded myself and ran, 
" wiggling and wingling" along the main di- 
vide, and then came the steep pull up Briar 
Knob. As I was grading around the summit 
with all the lope that was left in me, I heard a 
rifle crack, half a mile down Saddle-back. Old 
" Doc " was somewhere in that vicinity. I 


halted to listen. Creation, what a rumpus I 
Then another shot. Then the warwhoop of the 
South, that we read about. 

By and by, up they came, John and Cope 
and " Doc," two at a time, carrying the bear on 
a trimmed sapling. Presently Hyde joined us, 
then came Granville, and we filed back to camp, 
where " Doc " told his story: 

" Boys, them dogs' eyes shined like new 
money. Coaly fit agin, all right, and got his 
tail bit. The bear div down into a sink-hole 
with the dogs a-top o' him. Soon's I could shoot 
without hittin' a dog, I let him have it. Thought 
I'd shot him through the head, but he fit on. 
Then I jumped down into the sink and kicked 
him loose from the dogs, or he'd a-killed Coaly. 
Waal, sir, he wa'n't hurt a bit — the ball jest 
glanced ofif his head. He riz an' knocked me 
down with his left paw, an' walked right over 
me, an' lit up the ridge. The dogs treed him in 
a minute. I went to shoot up at him, but my 
new hulls [cartridges] fit loose in this old cham- 
ber and this one drap [dropped] out, so the gun 
stuck. Had to git my knife out and fix hit. 
Then the dad-burned gun wouldn't stand roost- 
ered [cocked] ; the feather-spring had jumped 
out o' place. But I held back with my thumb, 
and killed him anyhow. 


" Fellers," he added feelingly, " I wish f my 
legs growed hind-side-fust." 

''What fer?" 

*' So 's 't I wouldn't bark my shins! " 

" Bears," remarked John, " is all left-handed. 
Ever note that? Hit's the left paw you wanter 
look out fer. He'd a-knocked somethin' out o' 
yer head if there'd been much in it, Doc." 

" Funny thing, but hit's true," declared Bill, 
" that a bear allers dies flat on his back, onless 
he's trapped." 

"So do men," said "Doc" grimly; 'men 
who've been shot in battle. You go along a 
battlefield, right atter the action, and you'll find 
most o' the dead faces pintin' to the sky." 

" Bears is almost human, anyhow. A skinned 
bear looks like a great big-bodied man with 
long arms and stumpy legs." 

I did not relish this turn of the conversation, 
for we had two bears to skin immediately. The 
one that had been hung up over night was 
frozen solid, so I photographed her standing 
on her legs, as in life. When it came to skin- 
ning this beast the job was a mean one; a fellow 
had to drop out now and then to warm his 

The mountaineers have an odd way of sharing 
the spoils of the chase. They call it " stoking 


the meat," a use of the word stoke that I have 
never heard elsewhere. The hide is sold, and 
the proceeds divided equally among the hunters, 
but the meat is cut up into as many pieces as 
there are partners in the chase; then one man 
goes indoors or behind a tree, and somebody at 
the carcass, laying his hand on a portion, calls 
out: "Whose piece is this?" 

" Granville Calhoun's," cries the hidden man, 
v^ho cannot see it. 

"Whose is this?" 

" Bill Cope's." 

And so on down the line. Everybody gets 
what chance determines for him, and there can 

be no charge of unfairness. 


It turned very cold that night. The last thing 
I heard was Matt Hyde protesting to the 

" Durn you. Bill Cope, you're so cussed 
crooked a man cain't lay cluss enough to you 
to keep warm! " 

Once when I awoke in the night the beech 
trees were cracking like rifle-shots from the 
intense frost. 

Next morning John announced that we were 
going to get another bear. 

" Night afore last," he said, " Bill dremp that 


he seed a lot o' fat meat layiii' on the table; an' 
it done come true. Last night I dremp me one 
that never was kno ^ved to fail yet. Now you 

It did not look like it by evening. We all 
worked hard and endured much — standers as 
well as drivers — but not a rifle had spoken up 
to the time when, from my far-off stand, I 
yearned for a hot supper. 

Away down in the rear I heard the snort of 
a locomotive, one of those cog-wheel affairs that 
are specially built for mountain climbing. With 
a steam-loader and three camps of a hundred 
men each, it was despoiling the Tennessee for- 
est. Slowly, but inexorably, a leviathan was 
crawling into the wilderness and was soon to 
consume it. 

" All this," I apostrophized, " shall be swept 
away, tree and plant, beast and fish. Fire will 
blacken the earth ; flood will swallow and spew 
forth the soil. The simple-hearted native men 
and women will scatter and disappear. In their 
stead will come slaves speaking strange tongues, 
to toil in the darkness under the rocks. Soot 
will arise, and foul gases; the streams will run 
murky death. Let me not see it! No; I will 


" *. . . Get me to some far-off land 

Where higher mountains under heaven stand . . . 
Where other thunders roll amid the hills, 
Some mightier wind a mightier forest fills 

With other strains through other-shapen boughs.' " 

Wearily I plodded back to camp. No one 
had arrived but " Doc." The old man had been 
thumped rather severely in yesterday's scrim- 
mage, but complained only of " a touch 0' rheu- 
matiz." Just how this disease had left his 
clothes in tatters he did not explain. 

It was late when Matt and Granville came 
in. The crimson and yellow of sunset had 
turned to a faultless turquoise, and this to a 
violet afterglow; then suddenly night rose from 
the valleys and enveloped us. 

About nine o'clock I went out on the Little 
Chestnut Bald and fired signals, but there was 
no answer. The last we had known of the 
drivers was that they had been beyond Thun- 
derhead, six miles of hard travel to the west- 
ward. There was fog on the mountain. We 
did some uneasy speculating. Then Granville 
and Matt took the lantern and set out for Briar 
Knob. " Doc" was too stiff for travel, and I, 
being at that time a stranger in the Smokies, 


would be of no use hunting amid clouds and 
darkness. " Doc " and I passed a dreary three 
hours. Finally, at midnight, my shots were an- 
swered, and soon the dogs came limping in. 
Dred had been severely bitten in the shoulders 
and Rock in the head. Coaly was bloody about 
the mouth, where his first day's wound had re- 
opened. Then came the four men, empty- 
handed, it seemed, until John slapped a bear's 
"melt" (spleen) upon the table. He limped 
from a bruised hip. 

" That bear outsharped us and went around 
all o' you-uns. We follered him clar over to the 
Spencer Place, and then he doubled and come 
back on the fur side o' the ridge. He crossed 
through the laurel on the Devil's Court House 
and tuk down an almighty steep place. It was 
plumb night by that time. I fell over a rock 
clift twenty feet down, and if 't hadn't been for 
the laurel I'd a-bruk some bones. I landed right 
in the middle of them, bear and dogs, fightin' 
like gamecocks. The bear dim a tree. Bill 
sung out 'Is it fur down thar? ' and I said 
' Purty fur.' 'Waal, I'm a-comin',' says he; 
and with that he grabbed a laurel to swing his- 
self down by, but the stem bruk, and down he 
come suddent, to jine the music. Hit was so 
dark I couldn't see my gun barrel, and we wuz 


all tangled up in greenbriers as thick as plough- 
lines. I had to fire twiste afore he tumbled. 
Then Matt an' Granville come. The four of us 
tuk turn-about crawlin' up out o' thar with the 
bear on our back. Only one man could handle 
him at a time — and he'll go a good two hun- 
derd, that bear. We gutted him, and left him 
near the top, to fotch in the mornin'. Fellers, 
I'm bodaciously tired out. This is the time I'd 
give half what I'm worth for a gallon o' liquor 
— and I'd promise the rest!" 

"You'd orter see what Coaly did to that var- 
mint," said Bill. " He bit a hole under the fore 
leg, through hide and ha'r, clar into the holler, 
so t' you can stick your hand in and seize the 
bear's heart." 

" John, what was that dream of yours? " 

" I dremp I stole a feller's overcoat. Now 
d'ye see? That means a bear's hide." 

Coaly, three days ago, had been an Inconse- 
quential pup; but now he looked up Into my 
eyes with the calm dignity that no fool or brag- 
gart can assume. He had been knighted. As 
he licked his wounds he was proud of them. 
" Scars of battle, sir. You may have your swag- 
ger ribbons and prize collars in the New York 
dog show, but this for me! " 

Poor Coaly! after two more years of valiant 


service, he was to meet an evil fortune. In con- 
nection with it I will relate a queer coinci- 

Two years after this hunt, a friend and I spent 
three summer months in this same old cabin on 
top of Smoky. When Andy had to return North 
he left with me, for sale, a .30-30 carbine, as he 
had more guns than he needed. I showed this 
carbine to Quill Rose, and the old hunter said: 
" I don't like them power-guns; you could shoot 
clar through a bear and kill your dog on the 
other side." The next day I sold the weapon to 
Granville Calhoun. Within a short time, word 
came from Granville's father that " Old Reel- 
foot " was despoiling his orchard. This Reel- 
foot was a large bear whose cunning had defied 
our best hunters for five or six years. He got 
his name from the fact that he " reeled " or 
twisted his hind feet in walking, as some horses 
do, leaving a peculiar track. This seems rather 
common among old bears, for I have known of 
several " reelfoots " in other, and widely sep- 
arated, regions. 

Cable and his dogs were sent for, A drive 
was made, and the bear was actually caught 
within a few rods of old Mr. Calhoun's stable. 
His teeth were worn to the gums, and, as he 
could no longer kill hogs, he had come down to 


an apple diet. He was large-framed, but very 
poor. The only hunters on the spot were Gran- 
ville, with the .30-30, and a northern lumberman 
named Hastings, with a Luger carbine. After 
two or three shots had wounded the bear, he 
rose on his hind feet and made for Granville. 
A .30-30 bullet went clear through the beast at 
the very instant that Coaly, who was unseen, 
jumped up on the log behind it, and the missile 
gave both animals their death woundo 



I WAS hunting alone in the mountains, and 
exploring ground that was new to me. 
About noon, while descending from a high 
ridge into a creek valley, to get some water, I 
became enmeshed in a rhododendron " slick," 
and, to some extent, lost my bearings. 

After floundering about for an hour or two, I 
suddenly came out upon a little clearing. Giant 
hemlocks, girdled and gaunt, rose from a steep 
cornfield of five acres, beyond which loomed the 
primeval forest of the Great Smoky Mountains. 
Squat in the foreground sat one of the rudest 
log huts I had ever seen, a tiny one-room shack, 
without window, cellar, or loft, and without a 
sawed board showing in Its construction. A thin 
curl of smoke rose from one end of the cabin, not 
from a chimney, but from a mere semi-circle of 
stones piled four feet high around a hole cut 
through the log wall. The stones of this fire- 


place were not even plastered together with 
mud, nor had the builder ever intended to raise 
the pile as high as the roof to guard his premises 
against the imminent risk of fire. Two low 
doors of riven boards stood wide open, opposite 
each other. These, helped by wide crevices be- 
tween the unchinked logs, served to let in some 
sunlight, and quite too much of the raw Novem- 
ber air. The surroundings were squalid and 
filthy beyond anything I had hitherto witnessed 
in the mountains. As I approached, wading 
ankle-deep in muck that reached to the door- 
sill, two pigs scampered out through the op- 
posite door. 

Within the hut I found only a slip of a girl, 
rocking a baby almost as big as herself, and 
trying to knit a sock at the same time. She 
was toasting her bare toes before the fire, and 
crooning in a weird minor some mountain ditty 
that may have been centuries old. 

I shivered as I looked at this midget, com- 
paring her only garment, a torn calico dress, 
with my own stout hunter's garb that seemed 
none too warm for such a day as this. 

Knowing that the sudden appearance of a 
stranger would startle the girl, I chose the 
quickest way to reassure her by saluting in the 



" Howdy? " she gasped. 

"Who lives here?" 

"Tom Kirby." 

" Kirby? Oh! yes, I know him — we've been 
hunting together. Is your father at home? " 

" No, he's out somewheres." 

"Where is your mother?" 

" She's in the field, up yan, gittin' roughness." 

I took some pride in not being stumped by 
this answer. " Roughness," in mountain lingo, 
is any kind of rough fodder, specifically corn 

" How far is it to the next house? " 

" I don't know; maw, she knows." 

"All right; I'll find her." 

I went up to the field. No one was in sight; 
but a shock of fodder was walking away from 
me, and I conjectured that " maw's" feet were 
under it; so I hailed: 


The shock turned around, then tumbled over, 
and there stood revealed a bare-headed, bare- 
footed woman, coarse featured but of superb 
physique — one of those mountain giantesses who 
think nothing of shouldering a two-bushel sack 
of corn and carrying it a mile or two without 
letting it down. 




She flushed, then paled, staring at me round- 
eyed — frightened, I thought, by this apparition 
of a stranger whose approach she had not de- 
tected. To these people of the far backwoods 
everyone from outside their mountains is a 
doubtful character at best. 

However, Mistress Kirby quickly recovered 
her aplomb. Her mouth straightened to a thin 
slit. She planted herself squarely across my 
path, now regarding me with contracted lids and 
a hard glint, till I felt fairly bayoneted by those 
Steel-gray eyes. 

" Good-morning. Is Mr. Kirby about? " I 

There was no answer. Instead, the thin slit 
opened and let out a yell of almost yodel quality, 
penetrating as a warwhoop — a yell that would 
carry near half a mile. I wondered what she 
meant by this; but she did not enlighten me by 
so much as a single word. It was puzzling, not 
to say disconcerting; but, charging it to the 
custom of a country that still was new to me, I 
found my tongue again, and started to give 

" My name is Kephart. I am staying at the 
Everett Mine on Sugar Fork " 

Another yell that set the wild echoes flying. 

'' I am acquainted with your husband; we've 

hunted together. Perhaps he has told you " 

Yell number three, same pitch and vigor as 

By this time I was quite nonplussed. I waited 
for her to speak; but never a word did the 
woman deign. So there we stood and stared at 
each other in silence — I leaning on my rifle, she 
with red arms akimbo — till I grew embar- 
rassed, half wondering, too, if the creature were 

Suddenly a light flashed upon my groping 
wits. This amazon was on picket. Her three 
shrieks had been a signal to someone up the 
branch. Her attitude showed that there was 
no thoroughfare in that direction at present. 
Circumstances, whatever they were, forbade ex- 
planation. Clearly, the woman thought that I 
could not help seeing how matters stood. Not 
for a moment did she suspect but that her yells, 
her belligerent attitude, and her refusal to speak, 
were the conventional way, this world over, of 
intimating that there was a contretemps. She 
considered that if I was what I claimed to be, 
an acquaintance of her husband and on friendly 
footing, I would be gentleman enough to retire. 
If I was something else — an officer, a spy — well, 
she was there to stop me until the captain of the 
guard arrived. 


For one silly moment I was tempted to ad- 
vance and see what this martial spouse would 
do if I tried to pass her on the trail. But a 
hunter's instinct made me glance forward to the 
upper corner of the field. There was thick 
cover beyond the fence, with a clear range of a 
hundred and fifty yards between it and me — 
too far for Tom to recognize me, I thought, but 
deadly range for his Winchester, I knew. One 
forward step of mine would put me in the status 
of an armed intruder. So I concluded that 
common sense would better become me at this 
juncture than a bit of fooling that surely would 
be misinterpreted, and that might end inglori- 

"Ah, well!" I remarked, "when your hus- 
band gets back, tell him, please, that I was 
sorry to miss him; though I did not call on any 
special business — just wanted to say ' Howdy?* 
you know. Good day! " 

I turned and went down the valley. 

All the way home I speculated on this queer 
adventure. What was going on " up yan "? 

A month before, when I had started for this 
wildest nook of the Smokies, a friend had inti- 
mated that I was venturing into a dubious dis- 
trict — Moonshine Land. It is but frank to con- 
fess that this prospect was not unpleasant. My 


only fear had been that I might not find any 
moonshiners, or that, having found them, I 
might not succeed in winning their confidence 
to the extent of learning their own side of an in- 
teresting story. As to how I could do this with- 
out getting tarred with the same stick, I was by 
no means clear; but I hoped that good luck 
might find a way. And now it seemed as if luck 
had indeed favored me with an excuse for 
broaching the topic to some friendly mountain- 
eer, so I could at least see how he would take it. 

And it chanced (or was it chance?) that I had 
no more than finished supper, that evening, 
when a man called at my lonely cabin. He was 
the one that I knew best among my scattered 
neighbors. I gave him a rather humorous ac- 
count of my reception by Madame Kirby, and 
asked him what he thought she was yelling 

There was no answering smile on my visitor's 
face. He pondered in silence, weighing many 
contingencies, it seemed, and ventured no more 
than a helpless " Waal, now I wonder! " 

It did not suit me to let the matter go at 
that; so, on a sudden impulse, I fired the ques- 
tion point-blank at him: " Do you suppose that 
Tom is running a still up there at the head of 
that little cove?" 


The man's face hardened, and there came a 
glint into his eyes such as I had noticed in Mis- 
tress Kirby's. 

" Jedgmatically, I don't know." 

" Excuse me! I don't want to know, either. 
But let me explain just what I am driving at. 
People up North, and in the lowlands of the 
South as well, have a notion that there is little 
or nothing going on in these mountains except 
feuds and moonshining. They think that a 
stranger traveling here alone is in danger of 
being potted by a bullet from almost any laurel 
thicket that he passes, on mere suspicion that he 
may be a revenue officer or a spy. Of course, that 
is nonsense;* but there is one thing that I'm as 
ignorant about as any novel-reader of them all. 
You know my habits ; I like to explore — I never 
take a guide — and when I come to a place that's 
particularly wild and primitive, that's just the 
place I want to peer into. Now the dubious 
point is this: Suppose that, one of these days 
when I'm out hunting, or looking for rare 
plants, I should stumble upon a moonshine still 
in full operation — what would happen? What 
would they do? " 

* Pure bluff of mine, at that time ; but it was good policy 
to assume perfect confidence. 


" Waal, sir, I'll tell you whut they'd do. 
They'd fust-place ask you some questions about 
yourself, and whut you-uns was doin' in that thar 
neck o' the woods. Then they'd git you to do 
some triflin' work about the still — feed the 
furnace, or stir the mash — jest so 's 't they could 
prove that you took a hand in it your own self." 

" What good would that do? " 

" Hit would make you one o' them in the eyes 
of the law. 

" I see. But, really, doesn't that seem rather 
childish? I could easily convince any court that 
I did it under compulsion; for that's what it 
would amount to." 

" I reckon you-uns would find a United States 
court purty hard to convince. The judge 'd 
right up and want to know why you let grass 
go to seed afore you came and informed on 

He paused, watched my expression, and then 
continued quizzically: " I reckon you wouldn't 
be in no great hurry to do that." 

"No! Then, if I stirred the mash and sam- 
pled their liquor, nobody would be likely to 
mistreat me? " 

" Shucks! Why, man, whut could they gain 
by hurtin' you? At the wust, s'posin' they was 
convicted by your own evidence, they'd only git 


a month or two in the pen. So why should they 
murder you and get hung for it? Hit's all 
'tarnal foolishness, the notions some folks has! " 

"I thought so. Now, here! the public has 
been fed all sorts of nonsense about this moon- 
shining business. I'd like to learn the plain 
truth about it, without bias one way or the 
other. I have no curiosity about personal 
affairs, and don't want to learn incriminating 
details; but I would like to know how the busi- 
ness is conducted, and especially how it is re- 
garded from the mountain people's own point 
of view. I have already learned that a stran- 
ger's life and property are safer here than they 
would be on the streets of Chicago or of St. 
Louis. It will do your country good to have 
that known. But I can't say that there is no 
moonshining going on here; for a man with a 
wooden nose could smell it. Now what Is your 
excuse for defying the law? You don't seem 
ashamed of it." 

The man's face turned an angry red. 

" Mister, we-uns hain't no call to be ashamed 
of ourselves, nor of ary thing we do. We're 
poor; but we don't ax no favors. We stay 'way 
up hyar in these coves, and mind our own busi- 
ness. When a stranger comes along, he's wel- 
come to the best we've got, such as 'tis; but if 


he imposes on us, he gits his medicine purty 
damned quick! '"' 

" And you think the Government tax on 
whiskey is an imposition,'' 

" Hit is, und'-^r some sarcumstances." 

My guest stretched his legs, and '' jedgmati- 
cally " proceeded to enlighten me. 

" Thar's plenty o' men and women grown, in 
these mountains, who don't know that the Gov- 
ernment is ary thing but a president in a biled 
shirt who commands two-three judges and a 
gang o' revenue officers. They know thar's a 
president, because the men folks 's voted for him, 
and the women folks 's seed his pictur. They've 
heered tell about the judges ; and they've seed 
the revenuers in flesh and blood. They be- 
lieve in supportin' the Government, because hit's 
the law. Nobody refuses to pay his taxes, for 
taxes is fair and squar'. Taxes cost mebbe 
three cents on the dollar; and that's all right. 
But revenue costs a dollar and ten cents on 
twenty cents' worth o' liquor; and that's robbin' 
the people with a gun to their faces. 

" Of course, I ain't so ignorant as all that — ' 
I've traveled about the country, been to Ashe- 
ville wunst, and to Waynesville a heap o' times 
— and I know the theory. Theory says 't reve- 
nue is a tax on luxury. Waal, that's all right — 


anything In reason. The big fellers that makes 
lots of money out o' stillin', and lives In luxury, 
ought to pay handsome for It. But who ever 
seen luxury cavortin' around In these Smoky 

He paused for a reply. Even then, with my 
limited experience In the mountains, I could not 
help wincing at the Idea. Often, In later times, 
this man's question came back to me with 
peculiar force. Luxury! In a land where the 
little stores were often out of coffee, sugar, 
kerosene, and even salt; where, in dead of 
winter, there was no meal, much less flour, to 
be had for love or money. Luxury! where I 
had to live on bear-meat (tough old sow bear) 
for six weeks, because the only side of pork that 
I could find for sale was full of maggots. 

My friend continued: ''Whiskey means more 
to us mountain folks than hit does to folks In 
town, whar thar's drug-stores and doctors. Let 
ary thing go wrong In the fam'ly — fever, or 
snake bite, or somethin' — and we can't git a 
doctor up hyar less'n three days; and it costs 
scand'lous. The only medicines we-uns has is 
3'erbs, which customarily ain't no good 'thout 
a leetle grain o' whiskey. Now, th'r ain't no 
saloons allowed in all these western counties. 
The nighest State dispensary, even, is sixty miles 


away.* The law wunt let us have liquor shipped 
to us from anywhars in the State. If we git it 
sent to us from outside the State it has to come 
by express — and reg-lar old pop-skull it is, too. 
So, to be good law-abiding citizens, we-uns 
must travel back and forth at a heap of expense, 
or pay express rates on pizened liquor — and we 
are too durned poor to do ary one or t'other. 

^'Now, yan's my field o' corn. I gather the 
corn, and shuck hit and grind hit my own self, 
and the woman she bakes us a pone o' bread to 
eat — and I don't pay no tax, do I? Then why 
can't I make some o' my corn into pure whiskey 
to drink, without payin' tax? I tell you, 'taint 
fair, this way the Government does! But, when 
all's said and done, the main reason for this 
* moonshining,' as you-uns calls it, is bad roads." 

" Bad roads? " I exclaimed. " What the " 

" Jest thisaway : From hyar to the railroad is 
seventeen miles, with two mountains to cross; 
and you've seed that road! I recollect you-uns 
said every one o' them miles was a thousand 
rods long. Nobody's ever measured them, ex- 
cept by mountain man's foot-rule — big feet, and 
a long stride between 'em. Seven hundred 

*This was in 1904. 


pounds is all the load a good team can haul 
over that road, when the weather's good. Hit 
takes three days to make the round trip, less'n 
you break an axle, and then hit takes four. 
When you do git to the railroad, th'r ain't no 
town of a thousand people within fifty mile. 
Now us folks ain't even got wagons. Thar's 
only one sarviceable wagon in this whole settle- 
ment, and you can't hire it without team and 
driver, which is two dollars and a half a day. 
Whar one o' our leetle sleds can't go, we haffter 
pack on mule-back or tussle it on our own 
wethers. Look, then! The only farm produce 
we-uns can sell is corn. You see for yourself 
that corn can't be shipped outen hyar. We can 
trade hit for store credit — that's all. Corn 
juice is about all we can tote around over the 
country and git cash money for. Why, man, 
that's the only way some folks has o' payin' 
their taxes!" 

" But, aside from the work and the worry," 
I remarked, " there is the danger of being shot, 
in this business." 

" Oh, we-uns don't lay tliat up agin the Gov- 
ernment! Hit's as fair for one as 'tis for t'other. 
When a revenuer comes sneakin' around, why, 
whut he gits, or whut we-uns gits, that's a 
' fortune of war,' as the old sayin' is." 


There is no telegraph, wired or wireless, in 
the mountains, but there is an efficient substi- 
tute. It seemed as though, in one night, the 
news traveled from valley to cove, and from 
cove to nook, that I was investigating the moon- 
shining business, and that I was apparently 
*' safe." Each individual interpreted that word 
to suit himself. Some regarded me askance, 
others were so confiding that their very frank- 
ness threatened at times to become embarrassing. 

Thereafter I had many talks and adventures 
with men who, at one time or other, had been 
engaged in the moonshining industry. Some of 
these men had known the inside of the peni- 
tentiary; some were not without blood-guilt, I 
doubt not that more than one of them could, 
even now, find his way through night and fog 
and laurel thicket to some " beautiful piece of 
copper " that has not yet been punched full of 
holes. They knew that I was on friendly terms 
with revenue agents. What was worse, they 
knew that I was a scribbler. More than once I 
took notes in their presence while interviewing 
them, and we had the frankest understanding as 
to what would become of those notes. 

My immunity was not due to any promises 
made or hostages given, for there were none. I 
did not even pose as an apologist, but merely 


volunteered to give a fair report of what I heard 
and saw. They took me at my word. Had I 
used such representations as a mask and secretly 
played the spy or informer — well, I would have 
deserved whatever might have befallen me. As 
it was, I never met with any but respectful treat- 
ment from these gentry, nor, to the best of my 
belief, did they ever tell me a lie. 



OUR terms moonshiner and moonshining 
are not used in the mountains. Here an 
illicit distiller is called a blockader, his 
business is blockading, and the product is block- 
ade liquor. Just as the smugglers of old Britain 
called themselves free-traders, thereby pro- 
claiming that they risked and fought for a prin- 
ciple, so the moonshiner considers himself sim- 
ply a blockade-runner dealing in contraband. 
His offense is only malum prohibitum, not ma- 
lum in se. 

There are two kinds of blockaders, big and 
little. The big blockader makes unlicensed 
whiskey on a fairly large scale. He may have 
several stills, operating alternately in different 
places, so as to avert suspicion. In any case, the 
still is large and the output is quite profitable. 
The owner himself may not actively engage In 
the work, but may furnish the capital and 
hire confederates to do the distilling for him, 
so that personally he shuns the appearance 



of evil. These big fellows are rare. They are 
the ones who seek collusion with the small-fry 
of Government officialdom, or, failing in that, 
instruct their minions to " kill on sight." 

The little moonshiner is a more interesting 
character, if for no other reason than that he 
fights fair, according to his code, and single- 
handed against tremendous odds. He is inno- 
cent of graft. There is nothing between him and 
the whole power of the Federal Government, 
except his own wits and a well-worn Winchester 
or muzzle-loader. He is very poor; he is very 
ignorant; he has no friends at court; his ap- 
paratus is crude in the extreme, and his output 
is miserably small. This man is usually a good 
enough citizen in other ways, of decent stand- 
ing in his own community, and a right good fel- 
low toward all the world, save revenue officers. 
Although a criminal in the eyes of the law, he 
is soundly convinced that the law is unjust, and 
that he is only exercising his natural rights. 
Such a man, as President Frost has pointed out, 
suffers none of the moral degradation that comes 
from violating his conscience; his self-respect 
is whole. 

In describing the process of making whiskey 
in the mountain stills, I shall confine myself to 
the operations of the little moonshiner, because 


they illustrate the surprising shiftiness of our 
backwoodsmen. Every man in the big woods 
is a jack-of-all-trades. His skill in extemporiz- 
ing utensils, and even crude machines, out of 
the trees that grow around him, is of no mean 
order. As good cider as ever I drank w^as made 
in a hollowed log fitted with a press-block and 
operated by a handspike. It took but half a 
day's work to make this cider press, and the 
only tools used in its construction were an ax, 
a mattock in lieu of adze, an auger, and a jack- 

It takes two or three men to run a still. It 
is possible for one man to do the work, on so 
small a scale as is usually practiced, but it 
would be a hard task for him ; then, too, there 
are few mountaineers who could individually 
furnish the capital, small though it be. So three 
men, let us say, will " chip in " five or ten dol- 
lars apiece, and purchase a second-hand still, if 
such is procurable, otherwise a new one, and 
that is all the apparatus they have to pay money 
for. If they should be too poor even to go to 
this expense, they will make a retort by invert- 
ing a half-barrel or an old wooden churn over a 
soap-kettle, and then all they have to buy is a 
piece of copper tubing for the worm. 

In choosing a location for their clandestine 


work, the first essential is running water. This 
can be found in almost any gulch ; yet, out of a 
hundred known spring-branches, only one ar 
two may be suitable for the business, most of 
them being too public. In a country where 
cattle and hogs run wild, and where a good 
part of every farmer's time is taken in keeping 
track of his stock, there is no place so secret 
but that it is liable to be visited at any time, 
even though it be in the depths of the great 
forest, several miles from any human habitation. 
Moreover, cattle, and especially hogs, are pas- 
sionately fond of still-slop, and can scent it a 
great distance, so that no still can long remain 
unknown to them.* Consequently the still must 
be placed several miles away from the residence 
of anyone who might be liable to turn informer. 
Although nearly all the mountain people are in- 
dulgent in the matter of blockading, yet per- 
sonal rivalries and family jealousies are rife 
among them, and it is not uncommon for them. 

* It is a curious fact that most horses despise the stuff. 
A celebrated revenue officer told me that for several years 
he rode a horse which was in the habit of drinking a mouth- 
ful from every stream that he forded; but if there was the 
least taint of still-slop in the water, he would whisk his 
nose about and refuse to drink. The officer then had only 
to follow up the stream, and he would infallibly find a still. 


to inform against their enemies in the neighbor- 

Of course, it would not do to set up a still 
near a common trail — at least in the far-back 
settlements. Our mountaineers habitually notice 
every track they pass, whether of beast or man, 
and " read the sign " with Indian-like facility. 
Often one of my companions would stop, as 
though shot, and point with his toe to the fresh 
imprint of a human foot in the dust or mud of a 
public road, exclaiming: " Now, I wonder who 
that feller was! 'Twa'n't (so-and-so), for he 
hain't got no squar'-headed hobnails; 'twa'n't 
(such-a-one), 'cause he wouldn't be hyar at this 
time o' day"; and so he would go on, figuring 
by a process of elimination that is extremely 
cunning, until some such conclusion as this was 
reached, "That's some stranger goin' over to 
Little River [across the line in Tennessee], and 
he's footin' hit as if the devil was atter him — 
I'll bet he's stobbed somebody and is runnin' 
from the sheriff!" Nor is the incident closed 
with that; our mountaineer will inquire of 
neighbors and passersby until he gets a descrip- 
tion of the wayfarer, and then he will pass the 
word along. 

Some little side-branch is chosen that runs 
through a gully so choked with laurel and 


briery and rhododendron as to be quite impass- 
able, save by such worming and crawling as 
must make a great noise. Doubtless a faint cat- 
tle-trail follows the backbone of the ridge above 
it, and this is the workers' ordinary highway in 
going to and fro; but the descent from ridge 
to gully is seldom made twice over the same 
course, lest a trail be printed direct to the still- 

This house is sometimes inclosed with logs, 
but oftener it is no more than a shed, built low, 
so as to be well screened by the undergrowth. 
A great hemlock tree may be felled in such posi- 
tion as to help the masking, so long as its top 
stays green, which will be about a year. Back 
far enough from the still-house to remain in 
dark shadow when the furnace is going, there 
is built a sort of nest for the workmen, barely 
high enough to sit up in, roofed with bark and 
thatched all over with browse. Here many a 
dismal hour of night is passed when there is 
nothing to do but to wait on the " cooking.'' 
Now and then a man crawls on all fours to the 
furnace and pitches in a few billets of wood, 
keeping low at the time, so as to offer as small 
a target as possible in the flare of the fire. Such 
precaution is especially needed when the num- 
ber of confederates Is too small for efficient 


picketing. Around the little plot where the 
still-shed and lair are hidden, laurel may be cut 
in such way as to make a cheval-de-frise, sharp 
stubs being entangled with branches, so that 
a quick charge through them would be out of 
the question. Two or three days' work, at most, 
will build the still-house and equip it ready for 
business, without so much as a shingle being 
brought from outside. 

After the blockaders have established their 
still, the next thing is to make arrangements 
with some miller who will jeopardize himself 
by grinding the sprouted corn; for be it known 
that corn which has been forced to sprout is a 
prime essential in the making of moonshine 
whiskey, and that the unlicensed grinding of 
such corn is an offense against the law of the 
United States no less than its distillation. Now, 
to any one living in a well-settled country, 
where there is, perhaps, only one mill to every 
hundred farms, and it is visited daily by men 
from all over the township, the finding of an 
accessory in the person of a miller would seem 
a most hopeless project. But when you travel 
in our southern mountains, one of the first 
things that will strike you is that about everj 
fourth or fifth farmer has a tiny tub-mill of his 
own. Tiny is indeed the word, for there are 


few of these mills that can grind more than a 
bushel or two of corn in a day; some have a ca- 
pacity of only half a bushel in ten hours of 
steady grinding. Red grains of corn being 
harder than white ones, it is a humorous saying 
in the mountains that " a red grain in the gryste 
[grist] will stop the mill." The appurtenances 
of such a mill, even to the very buhr-stones them- 
selves, are fashioned on the spot. How primi- 
tive such a meal-grinder may be is shown by the 
fact that a neighbor of mine recently offered 
a new mill, complete, for sale at six dollars. A 
few nails, and a country-made iron rynd and 
spindle, were the only things in it that he had 
not made himself, from the raw materials. 

In making spirits from corn, the first step is 
to convert the starch of the grain into sugar. 
Regular distillers do this in a few hours by 
using malt, but at the little blockade still a 
slower process is used, for malt is hard to get. 
The unground corn is placed in a vessel that 
has a small hole in the bottom, warm water is 
poured over the corn and a hot cloth is placed 
over the top. As water percolates out through 
the hole, the vessel is replenished with more 
of the warm fluid. This is continued for two 
or three days and nights until the corn has 
put forth sprouts a couple of inches long. The 


diastase in the germinating seeds has the same 
chemical effect as malt — the starch is changed to 

The sprouted corn is then dried and ground 
into meal. This sweet meal is then made into a 
mush with boiling water, and is let stand two 
or three days. The "sweet mash" thus made 
is then broken up, and a little rye malt, similarly 
prepared in the meantime, is added to it, if rye 
is procurable. Fermentation begins at once. 
In large distilleries, yeast is added to hasten 
fermentation, and the mash can then be used in 
three or four days ; the blockader, however, 
having no yeast, must let his mash stand for 
eight or ten days, keeping it all that time at a 
proper temperature for fermentation. This 
requires not only constant attention, but some 
skill as well, for there is no thermometer nor 
saccharometer in our mountain still-house. 
When done, the sugar of what is now "sour 
mash" has been converted into carbonic acid 
and alcohol. The resulting liquid Is tech- 
nically called the "wash," but blockaders call 
it "beer." It is Intoxicating, of course, but 
"sour enough to make a pig squeal." 

This beer is then placed in the still, a vessel 
with a closed head, connected with a spiral tube, 
the worm. The latter is surrounded by a closed 


jacket through which cold water is constantly 
passing. A wood fire is built in the rude fur- 
nace under the still; the spirit rises in vapor, 
along with more or less steam; these vapors are 
condensed in the cold worm and trickle down 
into the receiver. The product of this first dis- 
tillation (the "low wines" of the trade, the 
" singlings " of the blockader) is a weak and im- 
pure liquid, which must be redistilled at a lower 
temperature to rid it of water and rank oils. 

In moonshiners' parlance, the liquor of sec- 
ond distillation is called the " doublings." It Is 
in watching and testing the doublings that an 
accomplished blockader shows his skill, for if 
distillation be not carried far enough, the re- 
sulting spirits will be rank, though weak, and if 
carried too far, nothing but pure alcohol will 
result. Regular distillers are assisted at this 
stage by scientific instruments by which the 
" proof " is tested ; but the maker of " mountain 
dew " has no other instrument than a small vial, 
and his testing is done entirely by the "bead" 
of the liquor, the little iridescent bubbles that 
rise when the vial is tilted. When a mountain 
man is shown any brand of whiskey, whether a 
regular distillery product or not, he Invariably 
tilts the bottle and levels it again, before tast- 
ing; if the bead rises and is persistent, well and 


good; if not, he is prepared to condemn the 
liquor at once. 

It is possible to make an inferior whiskey at 
one distillation, by running the singlings 
through a steam-chest, commonly known as a 
" thumpin'-chist." The advantage claimed is 
that " Hit allows you to make your whiskey 
afore the revenue gits it; that's all." 

The final process is to run the liquor through 
a rude charcoal filter, to rid it of most of its 
fusel oil. This having been done, we have 
moonshine whiskey, uncolored, limpid as water, 
and ready for immediate consumption. 

I fancy that some gentlemen will stare at the 
words here italicised; but I am stating facts. 

It is quite impracticable for a blockader to 
age his whiskey. In the first place, he is too 
poor to wait; in the second place, his product 
is very small, and the local demand is urgent; 
in the third place, he has enough trouble to con- 
ceal, or run away with, a mere copper still, to 
say nothing of barrels of stored whiskey. Cheer- 
fully he might " waive the quantum o' the sin," 
but he is quite alive to " the hazard o' con- 
cealin'." So, while the stuff is yet warm from 
the still, it is taken by confederates and quickly 
disposed of. There is no exaggeration in the 
answer a moonshiner once made to me when I 


asked him how old the best blockade liquor ever 
got to be: "If it 'd git to be a month old, it 
'd fool me!" 

They tell a story on a whilom neighbor of 
mine, the redoubtable Quill Rose, which, to 
those who know him, sounds like one of his 
own: "A slick-faced dude from Knoxville," 
said Quill, " told me once that all good red- 
liquor was aged, and that if I'd age my block- 
ade it would bring a fancy price. Well, sir, I 
tried it; I kept some for three months — and, by 
godlings, // aint so.'* 

As for purity, all of the moonshine whiskey 
used to be pure, and much of it still is; but 
every blockader knows how to adulterate, and 
when one of them does stoop to such tricks he 
will stop at no halfway measures. Some add 
washing lye, both to increase the yield and to 
give the liquor an artificial bead, then prime 
this abominable fluid with pepper, ginger, to- 
bacco, or anything else that will make it sting. 
Even buckeyes, which are poisonous themselves, 
are sometimes used to give the drink a soapy 
bead. Such decoctions are known in the moun- 
tains by the expressive terms " pop-skull," " bust 
head," "bumblings" ("they make a humbly 
noise in a feller's head "). Some of them are so 
toxic that their continued use miffht be fatal 


to the drinker. A few drams may turn a nor- 
mally good-hearted fellow into a raging fiend 
who will shoot or stab without provocation. 

As a rule, the mountain people have no com- 
punctions about drinking, their ideas on this, 
as on other matters of conduct, being those cur- 
rent everywhere in the eighteenth century. 
yMen, women and children drink whiskey in 
family concert. I have seen undiluted spirits 
drunk, a spoonful at a time, by a babe that was 
still at the breast, and she never batted an eye 
(when I protested that raw whiskey would ruin 
the infant's stomach, the mother replied, with 
widened eyes : " Why, if there's liquor about, 
and she don't git none, she jist raarsf). In 
spite of this, taking the mountain people by and 
large, they are an abstemious race. In drink- 
ing, as in everything else, this is the Land of 
Do Without. Comparatively few highlanders 
see liquor oftener than once or twice a month. 
The lumberjacks and townspeople get most of 
the output; for they can pay the price. 

Blockade whiskey, until recently, sold to the 
consumer at from $2.50 to $3.00 a gallon. The 
average yield is only two gallons to the bushel 
of corn. Two and a half gallons is all that can 
be got out of a bushel by blockaders' methods, 
even with the aid of a " thumpin'-chist," unless 


lye be added. With corn selling at seventy- 
five cents to a dollar a bushel, as it did in our 
settlement, and taking into account that the aver- 
age sales of a little moonshiner's still probably 
did not exceed a gallon a day, and that a boot- 
legger must be rev^arded liberally for market- 
ing the stuff, it will be seen that there was no 
fortune in this mysterious trade, before prohibi- 
tion raised the price. Let me give you a picture 
in a few words. — 

Here in the laurel-thicketed forest, miles 
from any wagon road, is a little still, without 
so much as a roof over it. Hard by is a little 
mill. There is not a sawed board in that mill — 
even the hopper is made of clapboards riven on 
the spot. 

Three or four men, haggard from sleepless 
vigils, strike out into pathless forest through 
driving rain. Within five minutes the wet un- 
derbrush has drenched them to the skin. They 
climb, climb, climb. There is no trail for a 
long way ; then they reach a faint one that winds, 
winds, climbs, climbs. Hour after hour the 
men climb. Then they begin to descend. 

They have crossed the divide, a mile above 
sea-level, and are in another State. Hour after 
hour they " climb down," as they would say. 
They visit farmers' homes at dead of night. 


Each man shoulders two bushels of shelled corn 
and starts back again over the highest mountain 
range in eastern America. It is twenty miles 
to the little mill. They carry the corn thither 
on their own backs. They sprout it, grind it, 
distill it. Two of them then carry the whiskey 
twenty miles in the opposite direction, and, at 
the risk of capture and imprisonment, or of 
death if they resist, peddle it out by dodging, 
secret methods. 

This is no fancy sketch; it is literal truth. It 
is no story of the olden time, but of our own 
day. Do you wonder that one of these men 
should say, with a sigh — should say this? 
" Blockadin' is the hardest work a man ever 
done. And hit's wearin' on a feller's narves. 
Fust chance I git, I'm a-goin' ter quit! " 

And it is a fact that nine out of ten of those 
who try the moonshining game do quit before 
long, of their own accord. 


One day there came a ripple of excitement 
in our settlement. A blockader had shot at 
Jack Coburn, and a posse had arrested the 
would-be assassin — so flew the rumor, and it 
proved to be true. 

Coburn was a northern man who, years ago, 
opened a little store on the edge of the wilder- 


ness, bought timber land, and finally rose to 
affluence. With ready wit he adapted himself 
to the ways of the mountaineers and gained as- 
cendancy among them. Once in a while an 
emergency would arise in which it was necessary 
either to fight or to back down, and in these 
contests a certain art that Jack had acquired in 
Michigan lumber camps proved the undoing of 
more than one mountain tough, at the same time 
winning the respect of the spectators. He was 
what a mountaineer described to me as " a prac- 
ticed knocker." This phrase, far from meaning 
what it would on the Bowery, was interpreted 
to me as denoting " a master hand in a knock- 
fight." Pugilism, as distinguished from shoot- 
ing or stabbing, was an unknown art in the 
mountains until Jack introduced it. 

Coburn had several tenants, among whom was 
a character whom we will call Edwards. In 
leasing a farm to Edwards, Jack had expressly 
stipulated that there should be no moonshining 
on the premises. But, by and by, there was 
reason to suspect that Edwards was violating 
this part of the contract. Coburn did not send 
for a revenue officer; he merely set forth on a 
little still-hunt of his own. Before starting, he 
picked up a revolver and was about to stick it 
in his pocket, but, on second thought, he con- 


eluded that no red-headed man should be 
trusted with a loaded gun, even in such a case 
as this; so he thrust the weapon back into its 
drawer, and strode away, with nothing but his 
two big fists to enforce a seizure. 

Coburn searched long and diligently, but 
could find no sign of a still. Finally, when he 
was about to give it up, his curiosity was aroused 
by the particularly dense browse in the top of 
an enormous hemlock that had recently been 
felled. Pushing his way forward, he discov- 
ered a neat little copper still installed in the tree- 
top itself. He picked up the contraband uten- 
sil, and marched away with it. 

Meantime, Edwards had not been asleep. 
When Jack came in sight of the farmhouse, 
humped under his bulky burden, the enraged 
moonshiner seized a shotgun and ran toward 
him, breathing death and destruction. Jack, 
however, trudged along about his business. Ed- 
wards, seeing that no bluff would work, fired; 
but the range was too great for his birdshot 
even to pepper holes through the copper still. 

Edwards made a mistake in firing that shot. 
It did not hurt Coburn's skin, but it ruffled his 
dignity. In this case it was out of the ques- 
tion to pommel the blackguard, for he had 
swiftly reloaded his gun. So Jack ran ofT with 


the still, carried it home, sought out our magis- 
trate, Brooks, and forthwith swore out a war- 

Brooks did not fuss over any law books. 
Moonshining in itself may be only a peccadillo, 
a venial sin — let the Government skin its own 
skunks — but when a man has promised not to 
moonshine, and then goes and does it, why that, 
by Jeremy, is a breach of contract! Straight- 
way the magistrate hastened to the post-office, 
and swore in, as a posse comitatus, the first four 
men that he met. 

Now, when four men are picked up at random 
in our township, It is safe to assume that at 
least three of them have been moonshiners them- 
selves, and know how this sort of thing should 
be done. At any rate, the posse wasted no 
time in discussion. They went straight after 
that malefactor, got him, and, within an hour 
after the shot was fired, he was drummed out of 
the county for good and forever. 

But Edwards had a son who was a trifle brash. 
This son armed himself, and offered show of 
battle. He fired two or three shots with his 
Winchester (wisely over the posse's heads) and 
then took to the tall timber. Dodging from 
tree to tree he led the impromptu officers such a 
dance up the mountainside that by the time they 


had corralled him they were " plumb overhet." 
They set that impetuous young man on a 
sharp-spined little jackass, strapped his feet un- 
der the animal's belly, and their chief (my hunt- 
ing partner, he was) drove him, that same night, 
twenty-five miles over a horrible mountain trail, 
and lodged him in the county jail, on a charge 
more serious than t/iat of moonshining. 

In due time, a United States deputy arrived 
in our midst, bearing a funny-looking hatchet 
with a pick at one end, which he called a 
" devil." With the pick end of this instrument 
he punched numerous holes through the offend- 
ing copper vessel, until the still looked some- 
what like a gigantic horseradish-grater turned 
inside out. Then he straightened out the worm 
by ramming a long stick through it, and tri- 
umphantly carried away with him the copper- 
sheathed staff, as legal proof, trophy, and bur- 
geon of office. 

The sorry old still itself reposes to this day in 
old Brooks's backyard, where it is regarded by 
passersby as an emblem, not so much of Federal 
omnipotence, as of local efficiency in adminis- 
tering the law with promptitude, and without a 
pennyworth of cost to anybody, save to the of- 



BEFORE prohibition, moonshining was 
seldom practiced outside the mountains 
and foothills of the southern Appalach- 
ians, and those parts of the southwest (namely, 
in southern Missouri, Arkansas and Texas), into 
which the mountaineers have immigrated in 
considerable numbers. 

Here, then, was a conundrum: How does it 
happen that moonshining is distinctly a foible 
of the southern mountaineer? 

To get to the truth, we must hark back into 
that eighteenth century wherein, as I have al- 
ready remarked, our mountain people are lin- 
gering to this day. We must leave the South; 
going, first, to Ireland of 150 or 175 years ago, 
and then to western Pennsylvania shortly after 
the Revolution. 

The people of Great Britain, irrespective of 
race, have always been ardent haters of excise 
laws. As Blackstone has curtly said, " From its 
original to the present time, the very name of 



excise has been odious to the people of Eng- 
land." Dr. Johnson, in his dictionary, defined 
excise as " A hateful tax levied upon commodi- 
ties, and adjudged not by the common judge? 
of property, but by wretches hired by those to 
whom excise is paid." In 1659, when the town 
of E^dinburgh placed an additional Impost on 
ale, the Convenanter Nicoll proclaimed It an 
act so Impious that immediately " God frae the 
heavens declared his anger by sending thunder 
and unheard tempests and storms." And we 
still recall Burns' fiery invective: 

Thae curst horse-leeches o' the Excise 
Wha male the whisky stills their prize! 
Haud up thy han', Deil ! ance, twice, thrice! 

There, seize the blinkers! [wretches] 
An bake them up in brunstane pies 
For poor d — n'd drinkers. 

Perhaps the chief reason. In England, for this 
outspoken detestation of the exciseman lay in 
the fact that the law empowered him to enter 
private houses and to search at his own discre- 
tion. In Scotland and Ireland there was an- 
other objection, even more valid In the eyes of 
the common people; excise struck heaviest at 
their national drink. Englishmen, at the time 
of which we are speaking, were content with 


their ale, not yet having contracted the habit of 
"^linking gin; but Scotchmen and Irishmen pre- 
ferred distilled spirits, manufactured, as a rule, 
out of their own barley, in small pot-stills [pot-, 
een means, literally, a little pot), the process 
being a common household art frequently prac- 
ticed '' every man for himself and his neigh- 
bor." A tax, then, upon whiskey was as odious 
as a tax upon bread baked on the domestic 
hearth — if not, indeed, more so. 

Now, there came a time when the taxes laid 
upon spirituous liquors had increased almost to 
the point of prohibition. This was done, not so 
much for the sake of revenue, as for the sake 
of the public health and morals. Englishmen 
had suddenly taken to drinking gin, and the im- 
mediate effect was similar to that of introducing 
firewater among a race of savages. There was 
hue and cry (apparently with good reason), that 
the gin habit, spreading like a plague, among a 
people unused to strong liquors, would soon ex- 
terminate the English race. Parliament, 
alarmed at the outlook, then passed an excise 
law of extreme severity. As always happens 
in such cases, the law promptly defeated its own 
purpose by breeding a spirit of defiance and re- 
sistance among the great body of the people. 

The heavier the tax. the more widespread be- 


came the custom of illicit distilling. The law 
was evaded in two different ways, the method 
depending somewhat upon the relative loyalty 
of the people toward the Crown, and somewhat 
upon the character of the country, as to whether 
it was thickly or thinly settled. 

In rich and populous districts, as around Lon- 
don and Edinburgh and Dublin, the common 
practice was to bribe government officials. A 
historian of that time declares that "Not in- 
frequently the ganger could have laid his hands 
upon a dozen stills within as many hours; but 
he had cogent reasons for avoiding discoveries 
unless absolutely forced to make them. Where 
mformations were laid, it was by no means un- 
common for a trusty messenger to be dispatched 
from the residence of the ganger to give due 
notice, so that by daybreak next morning ' the 
boys,' with all their utensils, might disappear. 
Now and then they were required to leave an 
old and worn-out still in place of that which 
they were to remove, so that a report of actual 
seizure might be made. A good understanding 
was thus often kept up between the gangers and 
and the distillers; the former not infrequently 
received a ' duty ' upon every still within his 
jurisdiction, and his cellars were never without 
' a sup of the best.' .... The commerce was car* 


ried on to a very great extent, and openly. 
Poteen was usually preferred, even by the gen- 
try, to ' Parliament ' or ' King's ' whiskey. It 
was known to be free from adulteration, and had 
a smoky flavor (arising from the peat fires) 
which many liked." Another waiter says that 
" The amount of spirits produced by distillation 
avowedly illicit vastly exceeded that produced 
by the licensed distilleries. According to 
Wakefield, stills were erected even in the kitch- 
ens of baronets and in the stables of clergymen." 

However, this sort of thing was not moon- 
shining. It was only the beginning of that sys- 
tem of wholesale collusion which, in later times, 
w^as perfected in our own country by the ^^ Whis- 
key Ring." 

Tvloonshining proper was confined to the 
poorer class of people, especially in Ireland, 
who lived in wild and sparsely settled regions, 
who were governed by a clan feeling stronger 
than their loyalty to the central Government, 
and who either could not afford to share their 
profits with the gangers, or disdained to do so. 
Such people hid their little pot-stills in inac- 
cessible places, as in the savage mountains and 
glens of Connemara, where it was impossible, 
or at least hazardous, for tlic law to reach them, 
With arms in hand they defied the ofiice^-i 


" The hatred of the people toward the gauger 
was for a very long period intense. The very- 
name invariably aroused the worst passions. To 
kill a gauger was considered anything but a 
crime; wherever it could be done with compara- 
tive safety, he was hunted to the death." 

Thus we see that the townsman's weapon 
against the government was graft, and the 
mountaineer's weapon was his gun — a hundred 
and fifty years ago, in Ireland, as they are in 
America to-day. Whether racial character had 
much to do with this is a debatable question. 
But, having spoken of race, a new factor, and 
a curious one, steps into our story. Let it be 
noted closely, for it bears directly on a prob- 
lem that has puzzled many of our own people, 
namely: What was the origin of our southern 

The north of Ireland, at the time of which we 
have been speaking, was not settled by Irish- 
men, but by Scotchm.en, who had been imported 
by James I. to take the place of native Hiber- 
nians whom he had dispossessed from the three 
northern counties. These immigrants came to 
be known as the Scotch-Irish. They learned 
how to make poteen in little stills, after the Irish 
fashion, and to defend their stills from intrusive 
foreigners, also after the Irish fashion. By and 


by these Scotch-Irish fell out with the British 
Government, and large bodies of them emi- 
grated to America, settling, for the most part, in 
western Pennsylvania. 

They were a fighting race. Accustomed to 
plenty of hard knocks at home, they took to the 
rough fare and Indian wars of our border as 
naturally as ducks take to water. They brought 
with them, too, an undying hatred of excise 
laws, and a spirit of unhesitating resistance to 
any authority that sought to enforce such laws. 

It was these Scotchmen, in the main, assisted 
by a good sprinkling of native Irish, and by the 
wilder blades among the Pennsylvania-Dutch, 
who drove out the Indians from the Alleghany 
border, formed our rear-guard in the Revolu- 
tion, won that rough mountain region for civili- 
zation, left it when the game became scarce and 
neighbors' houses too frequent, followed the 
mountains southward, settled western Virginia 
and Carolina, and formed the vanguard west- 
ward into Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and 
so onward till there was no longer a West to 
conquer. Some of their descendants remained 
behind in the fastnesses of the Alleghanies, the 
Blue Ridge, and the Unakas, and became, in 
turn, the progenitors of that singular race which, 
by an absurd pleonasm, Is now commonly known 


as the "mountain whites." but properly south- 
ern highlanders. 

The first generation of Pennsylvania frontiers- 
men knew no laws but those of their own mak- 
ing. They were too far away, too scattered, and 
too poor, for the Crown to bother with them. 
Then came the Revolution. The backwoods- 
men were loyal to the new American Govern- 
ment — loyal to a man. They not only fought 
off the Indians from the rear, but sent many of 
their incomparable riflemen to fight at the front 
as well. 

They were the first English-speaking people 
to use weapons of precision (the rifle, intro- 
duced by the Pennsylvania-Dutch about 1700, 
was used by our backwoodsmen exclusively 
throughout the war). They were the first to 
employ open-order formation in civilized war- 
fare. They were the first outside colonists to 
assist their New England brethren at the siege 
of Boston. They were mustered in as the First 
Regiment of Foot of the Continental Army (be- 
ing the first troops enrolled by our Congress, 
and the first to serve under a Federal banner). 
They carried the day at Saratoga, the Cowpens, 
and King's Mountain. From the beginning to 
the end of the war, they were Washington's 
favorite troops. 


And yet these same men were the first rebels 
against the authority of the United States Gov- 
ernment! And it was their old commander-in- 
chief, Washington himself, who had the un- 
grateful task of bringing them to order by a 
show of Federal bayonets. 

It happened in this wise: 

Up to the year 1791 there had been no excise 
tax in the United Colonies or the United States. 
(One that had been tried in Pennsylvania was 
utterly abortive). Then the country fell upon 
hard times. A larger revenue had to be raised, 
and Hamilton suggested an excise. The meas- 
ure was bitterly opposed by many public men, 
notably by Jefiferson; but it passed. Immedi- 
ately there was trouble in the tall timber. 

Western Pennsylvania, and the mountains 
southward, had been settled, as we have seen, 
by the Scotch-Irish; men who had brought with 
them a certain fondness for whiskey, a certain 
knack in making it, and an intense hatred of 
excise, on general as well as special principles. 
There were few roads across the mountains, and 
these few were execrable — so bad, indeed, that 
it was impossible for the backwoodsmen to bring 
their corn and rye to market, except in a con- 
centrated form. The farmers of the seaboard 
had grown rich, from the high prices that pre- 


vailed during the French Revolution; but the 
mountain farmers had remained poor, owing 
partly to difficulties of tillage, but chiefly to 
difficulties of transportation. As Albert Gal- 
latin said, in defending the western people, 
" We have no means of bringing the produce of 
our lands to sale either in grain or in meal. We 
are therefore distillers through necessity, not 
choice, that we may comprehend the greatest 
value in the smallest size and weight. The in- 
habitants of the eastern side of the mountains 
can dispose of their grain without the additional 
labor of distillation at a higher price than 
we can after we have disposed that labor 
upon it." 

Again, as in all frontier communities, there 
was a scarcity of cash in the mountains. Com- 
merce was carried on by barter; but there had 
to be some means of raising enough cash to pay 
taxes, and to purchase such necessities as sugar, 
calico, gun powder, etc., from the peddlers who 
brought them by pack train across the Alle- 
ghanies. Consequently a still had been set up 
on nearly every farm. A horse could carry 
about sixteen gallons of liquor, which repre- 
sented eight bushels of grain. In weight and 
bulk, and double that amount in value. This 
whiskey, even after it had been transported 


across the mountains, could undersell even so 
cheap a beverage as New England rum — so 
long as no tax was laid upon it. 

But when the newly created Congress passed 
an excise law, it virtually placed a heavy tax 
on the poor mountaineers' grain, and let the 
grain of the wealthy eastern farmers pass on to 
market without a cent of charge. Naturally 
enough, the excitable people of the border re- 
garded such a law as aimed exclusively at them- 
selves. They remonstrated, petitioned, stormed. 
*' From the passing of the law in January, 1791, 
there appeared a marked dissatisfaction in the 
western parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vir- 
ginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The legis- 
latures of North Carolina, Virginia and Mary- 
land passed resolutions against the law, and that 
of Pennsylvania manifested a strong spirit of 
opposition to it. As early as 1791, Washington 
was informed that throughout this whole region 
the people were ready for revolt." " To tax 
their stills seemed a blow at the only thing which 
obdurate nature had given them — a lot hard in- 
deed, in comparison with that of the people of 
the sea-board." 

Our western mountains (we call most of them 
southern mountains now) resembled somewhat 
those wild highlands of Connemara to which 


reference has been made — only they were far 
wilder, far less populous, and inhabited by a 
people still prouder, more independent, more 
used to being a law unto themselves than were 
their ancestors in old Hibernia. When the Fed- 
eral exciseman came among this border people 
and sought to levy tribute, they blackened or 
otherwise disguised themselves and treated him 
to a coat of tar and feathers, at the same time 
threatening to burn his house. He resigned. 
Indignation meetings were held, resolutions 
were passed calling on all good citizens to dis- 
obey the law, and whenever anyone ventured to 
express a contrary opinion, or rented a house to 
a collector, he, too, was tarred and feathered. 
If a prudent or ultra-conscientious individual 
took out a license and sought to observe the law, 
he was visited by a gang of " Whiskey Boys " 
who smashed the still and inflicted corporal pun- 
ishment upon its owner. 

Finally, warrants were issued against the law- 
breakers. The attempt to serve these writs pro- 
duced an uprising. On July 16, 1794, a com- 
pany of mountain militia marched to the house 
of the inspector, General Neville, to force him to 
give up his commission. Neville fired upon 
them, and, in the skirmish that ensued, five of 
the attacking force v/ere wounded and one was 


killed. The next day, a regiment of 500 moun- 
taineers, led by one "Tom the Tinker," burned 
Neville's house, and forced him to flee for his 
life. His guard of eleven U. S. soldiers surren- 
dered, after losing one killed and several 

A call was then issued for a meeting of the 
mountain militia at the historic Braddock's 
Field. On Aug. i, a large body assembled, of 
whom 2,000 were armed. They marched on 
Pittsburgh, then a village of 1,200 souls. The 
townsmen, eager to conciliate and to ward off 
pillage, appointed a committee to meet the mob 
half way. The committee, finding that it could 
not induce the mountain men to go home, made 
a virtue of necessity by escorting 5,400 of them 
into Pittsburgh town. As Fisher says, " The 
town was warned by messengers, and every prep- 
aration was made, not for defense, but to ex- 
tinguish the fire of the Whiskey Boys' thirst, 
which would prevent the necessity of having to 
extinguish the fire they might apply to houses. 
. . . Then the work began. Every citizen 
worked like a slave to carry provisions and buck- 
ets of whiskey to that camp." Judge Bracken- 
ridge tells us that it was an expensive as well 
as laborious day, and cost him personally four 
barrels of prime old whiskey. The day ended 


in a bloodless, but probably uproarious, jollifi- 

On this same day (the Governor of Pennsyl- 
vania having declined to interfere) Washington 
issued a proclamation against the rioters, and 
called for 15,000 militia to quell the insurrec- 
tion. Meantime he had appointed commission- 
ers to go into the disaffected region and try to 
persuade the people to submit peacefully before 
the troops should arrive. Peace was offered on 
condition that the leaders of the disturbance 
should submit to arrest. 

While negotiations were proceeding, the army 
advanced. Eighteen ringleaders of the mob 
were arrested, and the " insurrection " faded 
away like smoke. When the troops arrived, 
there was nothing for them to do. The insur- 
gent leaders were tried for treason, and two of 
them were convicted, but Washington pardoned 
both of them. The cost of this expedition was 
more than one-third of the total expenditures 
of the Government, for that year, for all other 
purposes. The moral effect upon the nation at 
large was wholesome, for the Federal Govern- 
ment had demonstrated, on this its first test, that 
it could enforce its own laws and maintain do- 
mestic tranquility. The result upon the moun- 
tain people themselves was dubious. Thomas 


Jeffcnson wrote to Madison in December: " The 
information of our [Virginia's] militia, returned 
from the westward, is uniform, that though the 
people there let them pass quietly, they were 
objects of their laughter, not of their fear; that 
one thousand men could have cut off their whole 
force in a thousand places of the Alleghany; 
that their detestation of the excise law was uni- 
versal, and has now associated with it a detesta- 
tion of the Government; and that a separation 
which was perhaps a very distant and proble- 
matical event, is now near and certain, and de- 
termined in the mind of every man." 

But Jefferson himself came to the presidency 
within six years, and the excise tax was promptly 
repealed, never again to be instituted, save as a 
war measure, until within a time so recent that 
it is now remembered by men whom we would 
not call very old. 

The moonshiners of our own day know noth- 
ing of the story that has here been written. Only 
once, within my knowledge, has it been told in 
the mountains, and then the result was so unex- 
pected, that I append the incident as a color 
contrast to this rather sombre narrative. — 

I was calling on a white-bearded patriarch 
who was a trifle vain of his historical learning. 
He could not read, but one of his daughters 


read to him, and he had learned by heart nearly 
all that lay between the two lids of a " Univer- 
sal History " such as book agents peddle about. 
Like one of John Fox's characters, he was fond 
of the expression " hist'ry says " so-and-so, and 
he considered it a clincher in all matters of de- 

Our conversation drifted to the topic of 

" Down to the time of the Civil War," de- 
clared the old settler, " nobody paid tax on the 
whiskey he made. Hit was thataway in my 
Pa's time, and in Gran'sir's, too. And so 'way 
back to the time of George Washington. Now, 
hist'ry says that Washington was the Father of 
his Country; and I reckon he was the greatest 
man that ever lived — don't you? " 

I murmured a complaisant assent. 

" Waal, sir, if 't was right to make free whis- 
key in Washington's day, hit's right no^u! " and 
the old man brought his fist down on the table. 

^' But that is where you make a mistake," I 
replied. "Washington did enforce a whiskey 
tax." Then I told about the Whiskey Insur- 
rection of 1794. 

This was news to Grandpa. He listened with 
deep attention, his brows lowering as the nar- 
rative proceeded. When it was finished he 


offered no comment, but brooded to himself in 
silence. My own thoughts wandered far afield, 
until recalled to the topic by a blunt demand: 

" You say Washington done that? " 

'' He did." 

" George Washington? " 

"Yes, sir: the Father of his Country." 

"Waal, Fm satisfied now that Washington 
was a leetle-grain cracked." 


The law of 1791, although it imposed a tax 
on whiskey of only 9 to 1 1 cents per proof gal- 
lon, came near bringing on a civil war, which 
was only averted by the leniency of the Federal 
Government in granting wholesale amnesty. 
The most stubborn malcontents in the mountains 
moved southward along the Alleghanies into 
western Virginia and the Carolinas, where no 
serious attempt was made to collect the excise; 
so they could practice moonshining to their 
heart's content, and there their descendants re- 
main to-day. 

On the accession of Jefiferson, in 1800, the tax 
on spirits was repealed. The war of 181 2 com- 
pelled the Government to tax whiskey again, but 
as this was a war tax, shared by commodities 
generally, it aroused no opposition. In 1817 


the excise was again repealed; and from that 
time until 1862 no specific tax was levied on 
liquors. During this period of thirty^five years 
the average market price of wliTskey was 24 
cents a gallon, sometimes dropping as low as 14 
cents. Spirits were so cheap that a " burning 
fluid," consisting of one part spirits of turpen- 
tine to four or five parts alcohol was used in the 
lamps of nearly every household. Moonshining, 
of course, had ceased to exist. 

Then came the Civil War. In 1862 a tax of 
20 cents a gallon was levied. Early in 1864 it 
rose to 60 cents. This cut off the industrial use 
of spirits, but did not affect its use as a beverage. 
In the latter part of 1864 the tax leaped to 
$1.50 a gallon, and the next year it reached the 
prohibitive figure of $2. The result of such 
excessive taxation was just what it had been In 
the old times, in Great Britain. In and around 
the centers of population there was wholesale 
fraud and collusion. " Efforts made to repress 
and punish frauds were of absolutely no account 
whatever. . . . The current price at which 
distilled spirits were sold in the markets was 
everywhere recognized and commented on by 
the press as less than the amount of the tax, 
allowing nothing whatever for the cost of manu- 


Seeing that the outcome was disastrous from 
a fiscal point of view — the revenue from this 
source was falling to the vanishing point — Con- 
gress, in 1868, cut down the tax to 50 cents a 
gallon. " Illicit distillation practically ceased 
the very hour that the new law came into opera- 
tion; . . . the Government collected during 
the second year of the continuance of the act 
$3 for every one that was obtained during the 
last year of the $2 rate." 

In 1869 there came a new administration, 
with frequent removals of revenue officials for 
political purposes. The revenue fell ofif. In 
1872 the rate was raised to 70 cents, and in 
1875 to 90 cents. The result is thus summar- 
ized by David A. Wells: 

" Investigation carefully conducted showed 
that on the average the product of illicit dis- 
tillation costs, through deficient yields, the nec- 
essary bribery of attendants, and the expenses 
of secret and unusual methods of transportation, 
from two to three times as much as the product 
of legitimate and legal distillation. So that, 
calling the average cost of spirits in the United 
States 20 cents per gallon, the product of the 
illicit distiller would cost 40 to 60 cents, leaving 
but 10 cents per gallon as the maximum profit 
to be realized from fraud under the most favor- 


able conditions — an amount not sufficient to off- 
set the possibility of severe penalties of fine, 
imprisonment, and confiscation of property. 
. . . The rate of 70 cents . . . constituted 
a moderate temptation to fraud. Its increase 
to 90 cents constituted a temptation altogether 
too great for human nature, as employed in 
manufacturing and selling whiskey, to resist. 
. . . During 1875-6, highwines sold openly in 
the Chicago and Cincinnati markets at prices 
less than the average cost of production plus 
the Government tax. Investigations showed 
that the persons mainly concerned in the work 
of fraud were the Government officials rather 
than the distillers; and that a so-called 'Whis- 
key Ring ' . . . extended to Washington, and 
embraced within its sphere of influence and par- 
ticipation, not merely local supervisors, collect- 
ors, inspectors, and storekeepers of the revenue, 
but even officers of the Internal Revenue Bu- 
reau, and probably, also, persons occupying 
confidential relations with the Executive of the 


Such being the condition of affairs in the 
centers of civilization in the latter part of the 
nineteenth century, let us now turn to the moun- 
tains, and see how matters stood among those 


primitive people who were still tarrying in the 
eighteenth. Their situation at that time is thus 
briefly sketched by a southern historian *: 

'* Before the war these simple folks made 
their apples and peaches into brandy, and their 
corn into whiskey, and these products, with a 
few cattle, some dried fruits, honey, beeswax, 
nuts, wool, hides, fur, herbs, ginseng and other 
roots, and woolen socks knitted by the women 
in their long winter evenings, formed the stock 
in trade which they bartered for their plain 
necessaries and few luxuries, their homespun 
and cotton cloths, sugar, coffee, snuff, and 
fiddles. . . . The raising of a crop of corn in 
summer, and the getting out of tan-bark and 
lumber in winter, were almost their only re- 
sources. . . . The burden of taxation rested 
lightly on them. For near two generations no 
excise duties had been levied. . . . The war 
came on. They were mostly loyal to the Union. 
They paid the first moderate tax without a 

" They were willing to pay any tax that they 
were able to pay. But suddenly the tax jumped 
to $1.50, and then to $2, a gallon. The people 
were goaded to open rebellion. Their corn at 
that time brought only from 25 to 40 cents a 
* Ellwood Wilson, Sr., in the Scwancc Review. 


bushel; apples and peaches, rarely more than 
lo cents at the stills. These were the only crops 
that could be grown in their deep and narrow 
valleys. Transportation was so difficult, and 
markets so remote, that there was no way to 
utilize the surplus except to distill it. Their 
stills were too small to bear the cost of govern- 
ment supervision. The superior officers of the 
Revenue Department (collectors, marshals, and 
district-attorneys or commissioners) were paid 
only by commissions on collections and by fees. 
Their subordinate agents, whose income de- 
pended upon the number of stills they cut up 
and upon the arrests made, were, as a class, 
brutal and desperate characters. Guerrilla 
warfare was the natural sequence." 



IITTLE or no attention seems to have been 
i paid to the moonshining that was going 
on in the mountains until about 1876, 
owing, no doubt, to the larger game in regis- 
tered distilleries. In his report for 1876-7, the 
new Commissioner of Internal Revenue called 
attention to the illicit manufacture of whiskey 
in the mountain counties of the South, and 
urged vigorous measures for its immediate sup- 

" The extent of these frauds," said he, " would 
startle belief. I can safely say that during the 
past ypar not less than 3,000 illicit stills have 
been operated in the districts named. Those 
stills are of a producing capacity of 10 to 50 
gallons a day. They are usually located at inac- 
cessible points in the mountains, away from the 
ordinary lines of travel, and are generally owned 
by unlettered men of desperate character, armed 
and ready to resist the officers of the law. 

Where occasion requires, they come together in 



companies of from ten to fifty persons, gun in 
hand, to drive the officers out of the country. 
They resist as long as resistance is possible, and 
when their stills are seized, and they themselves 
are arrested, they plead ignorance and poverty, 
and at once crave the pardon of the Govern- 

"These frauds had become so open and noto- 
rious . . . that I became satisfied extraordi- 
nary measures would be required to break them 
up. Collectors w^ere . . . each authorized to 
employ from five to ten additional deputies. 
. . . Experienced revenue agents of persever- 
ance and courage were assigned to duty to co- 
operate with the collectors. United States mar- 
shals were called upon to co-operate with the 
collectors and to arrest all persons known to 
have violated the laws, and district-attorneys 
were enjoined to prosecute all ofi"enders. 

" In certain portions of the country many 
citizens not guilty of violating the law them- 
selves were in strong sympathy with those who 
did violate, and the ofiicers in many instances 
found themselves unsupported in the execution 
of the laws by a healthy state of public opinion. 
The distillers — ever ready to forcibly resist the 
oflicers — were, I have no doubt, at times treated 
with harshness. This occasioned much indigna- 


tion on the part of those who sympathized with 
the lawbreakers. . . ." 

The Commissioner recommended, in his re- 
port, the passage of a law " expressly providing 
that where a person is caught in the act of oper- 
ating an illicit still, he may be arrested without 
warrant." In conclusion, he said: "At this 
time not only is the United States defrauded of 
its revenues, and its officers openly resisted, but 
when arrests are made it often occurs that pris- 
oners are rescued by mob violence, and officers 
and witnesses are often at night dragged from 
their homes and cruelly beaten, or waylaid and 

* * * * * 

One day I asked a mountain man, " How 
about the revenue officers? What sort of men 
are they?" 

"Torn down scoundrels, every one." 

" Oh, come, now! " 

"Yes, they are; plumb onery — lock, stock, 
barrel and gun-stick." 

" Consider what they have to go through," I 
remarked. "Like other detectives, they cannot 
secure evidence without practicing deception. 
Their occupation is hard and dangerous. Here 
in the mountains, every man's hand is against 


"Why is it agin them? We ain't all block- 
aders; yet you can search these mountains 
through with a fine-tooth comb and you wunt 
find ary critter as has a good word to say for 
the revenue. The reason is 't we know them 
men from 'way back; we know whut they uster 
do afore they jined the sarvice, and why they 
did it. Most of them were blockaders their own 
selves, till they saw how they could make more 
money turncoatin'. They use their authority to 
abuse people who ain't never done nothin' no- 
how. Dangerous business? Shucks! There's 
Jim Cody, for a sample [I suppress the real 
name] ; he was principally raised in this county, 
and I've knowed him from a boy. He's been 
eight years in the Government sarvice, and 
hain't never been shot at once. But he's killed 
a blockader — oh, yes! He arrested Tom Hay- 
ward, a chunk of a boy, that was scared most 
fitified and never resisted more'n a mouse. Cody, 
who was half drunk his-self, handcuffed Tom, 
quarreled with him, and shot the boy dead while 
the handcuffs was on him! Tom's relations 
sued Cody in the County Court, but he carried 
the case to the Federal Court, and they were too 
poor to follow It up. I tell you, though, thar's 
a settlement less 'n a thousand mile from the 
river whar Jim Cody ain't never showed his 


nose sence. He knows there'd be another reve- 
nue ' murdered.' " 

*' It must be ticklish business for an officer to 
prowl about the headwaters of these mountain 
streams, looking for ' sign.' " 

" Hell's banjer! they don't go prodjectin' 
around looking for stills. They set at home on 
their hunkers till some feller comes and in- 

"What class of people does the informing?" 

" Oh, sometimes hit's some pizen old bum 
who's been refused credit. Sometimes hit's the 
wife or mother of some feller who's drinkin' too 
much. Then, agin, hit may be some rival block- 
ader who aims to cut off the other feller's trade, 
ind, same time, divert suspicion from his own 
self. But ginerally hit's jest somebody who has 
a gredge agin the blockader fer family reasons, 
or business reasons, and turns informer to git 

It is only fair to present this side of the case, 
because there is much truth in it, and because It 
goes far to explain the bitter feeling against 
revenue agents personally that Is almost uni- 
versal In the mountains, and is shared even by 
the mountain preachers. It should be under- 
stood, too. In this connection, that the southern 
highlander has a long memory. Slights and 


injuries suffered by one generation have their 
scars transmitted to sons and grandsons. There 
is no denying that there have been officers in 
the revenue service who, stung by the contempt 
in which they were held as renegades from their 
own people, have used their authority in settling 
private scores, and have inflicted grievous 
wrongs upon innocent people. This is matter 
of official record. In his report for 1882, the 
Commissioner of Internal Revenue himself de- 
clared that " Instances have been brought to my 
attention where numerous prosecutions have 
been instituted for the most trivial violations of 
law, and the arrested parties taken long dis- 
tances and subjected to great inconveniences and 
expense, not in the interest of the Government, 
but apparently for no other reason than to make 

An ex-United States Commissioner told me 
that, in the darkest days of this struggle, when 
he himself was obliored to buckle on a revolver 
every time he put his head out of doors, he had 
more trouble with his own deputies than with 
the moonshiners. " As a rule, none but desper- 
adoes could could be hired for the service," he 
declared. " For example, one time my deputy 
in your county wanted some liquor for himself. 
He and two of his cronies crossed the line into 


South Carolina, raided a still, and got beastly- 
drunk. The blockaders bushwhacked them, 
riddled a mule and its rider with buckshot, and 
shot my deputy through the brain with a squir- 
rel rifle. We went over there and buried the 
victims a few days later, during a snow storm, 
working with our holster flaps unbuttoned. I 
had all that w^ork and worry simply because that 
rascal was bent on getting drunk without paying 
for it. However, it cost him his life. 

" They were not all like that, though," con- 
tinued the Judge. " Now and then there would 
turn up in the service a man who had entered 
it from honorable motives, and whose conduct, 
at all times, was chivalric and clean. There 
was Hersh Harkins, for example, now United 
States Collector at Asheville. I had many cases 
in which Harkins figured." 

"Tell me of one," I urged. 

" Well, one time there was a man named 
Jenks [that was not the real name, but it will 
serve], who was too rich to be suspected of 
blockading. Jenks had a license to make brandy, 
but not whiskey. One day Harkins was visiting 
his still-house, and he noticed something du- 
bious. Thrusting his arm down through the 
peach pomace, he found mash underneath. It 
is a penitentiary offense to mix the two. Har- 


kins procured more evidence from Jenk's dis- 
tiller, and haled the offender before me. The 
trial was conducted in a hotel room, full of 
people. We were not very formal in those days 
• — kept our hats on. There was no thought of 
Jenks trying to run away, for he was well-to-do; 
so he was given the freedom of the room. He 
paced nervously back and forth between my desk 
and the door, growing more restless as the trial 
proceeded. A clerk sat near me, writing a 
bond, and Harkins stood behind him dictating 
its terms. Suddenly Jenks wheeled around, near 
the door, jerked out a navy revolver, fired and 
bolted. It is hard to say whom he shot at, for 
the bullet went through Harkins's coat, through 
the clerk's hat, and through my hat, too. I 
ducked under the desk to get my revolver, and 
Harkins, thinking that I was killed, sprang to 
pick me up ; but I came up firing. It was won- 
derful how soon that room was emptied! Har- 
kins took after the fugitive, and had a wild 
chase; but he got him." 


It was my good fortune, a few evenings later, 
to have a long talk with Mr. Harkins himself. 
He was a fine giant of a man, standing six feet 
three, and symmetrically proportioned. No one 
looking into his kindly gray eyes would suspect 


that they belonged to one who had seen as hard 
and dangerous service in the Revenue Depart- 
ment as any man then living. In an easy, unas- 
suming way he told me many stories of his own 
adventures among moonshiners and counterfeit- 
ers in the old days when these southern Appa- 
lachians fairly swarmed with desperate charac- 
ters. One grim afifair will suffice to give an 
impression of the man, and of the times In 
which his spurs were won. 

There was a man on South Mountain, South 
Carolina, whom, for the sake of relatives who 
may still be living, we will call Lafonte. There 
was information that Lafonte was running a 
blind tiger. He got his whiskey from four 
brothers who were blockading near his father's 
house, just within the North Carolina line. The 
Government had sent an officer named Merrill 
to capture Lafonte, but the latter drove Merrill 
away with a shotgun. Harklns then received 
orders to make the arrest. Taking Merrill with 
him as guide, Harklns rode to the father's house, 
and found Lafonte himself working near a high 
fence. As soon as the criminal saw the officers 
approaching, he ran for the house to get his 
gun. Harklns galloped along the other side of 
the fence, and, after a rough-and-tumble fight, 
captured his man. The officers then carried 


their prisoner to the house of a man whose name 
I have forgotten — call him White — who lived 
about two miles away. Meantime they had 
heard Lafonte's sister give three piercing 
screams as a signal to his confederates in the 
neighborhood, and they knew that trouble 
would quickly brew. 

Breakfast was ready in White's home when 
the mob arrived. Harkins sent Merrill in to 
breakfast, and himself went out on the porch, 
carbine in hand, to stand off the thoroughly 
angry gang. White also went out, beseeching 
the mob to disperse. Matters looked squally 
for a time, but it was finally agreed that Lafonte 
should give bond, whereupon he was promptly 

The two officers then finished their breakfast, 
and shortly set out for the Blue House, an 
abandoned schoolhouse about forty miles dis- 
tant, where the trial was to be conducted. They 
were followed at a distance by Lafonte's half- 
drunken champions, who were by no means 
placated, owing to the fact that the Blue House 
was in a neighborhood friendly to the Govern- 
ment. Harkins and Merrill soon dodged to one 
side in the forest, until the rioters had passed 
them, and then proceeded leisurely in the rear. 
On their way to the Blue House they cut up 


four stills, destroyed a furnace, and made sev- 
eral arrests. 

The next day three United States commis- 
sioners opened court in the old schoolhouse. 
The room was crowded by curious spectators. 
The trial had not proceeded beyond prelimi- 
naries when shots and shouts from the pursuing 
mob were heard in the distance. Immediately 
the room was emptied of both crowd and com- 
missioners, who fled in all directions, leaving 
Harkins and Merrill to fight their battle alone. 

There were thirteen men in the moonshiners' 
mob. They surrounded the house, and imme- 
diately began shooting in through the windows. 
The officers returned the fire, but a hard-pine 
ceiling in the room caused the bullets of the 
attacking party to ricochet in all directions and 
made the place untenable. Harkins and his 
comrade sprang out through the windows, but 
from opposite sides of the house. Merrill ran, 
but Harkins grappled with the men nearest to 
him, and in a moment the whole force of des- 
peradoes was upon him like a swarm of bees. 
Unfortunately, the brave fellow had left his car- 
bine at the house where he had spent the night. 
His only weapon was a revolver that had only 
three cartridges in the cylinder. Each of these 
shots dropped a man; but there were ten men 


left. Nothing but Harkins's gigantic strength 
saved him, that day, from immediate death. 
His long arms tackled three or four men at once,, 
and all went down in a bunch. Others fell on 
top, as in a college cane-rush. There had been 
swift shooting, hitherto, but now it was mostly 
knife and pistol-butt. It is almost incredible, 
but it is true, that this extraordinary battle 
waged for three-quarters of an hour. At its 
end only one man faced the now thoroughly ex- 
hausted and badly wounded, but indomitable 
officer. At this fellow, Harkins hurled his pis- 
tol ; it struck him in the forehead, and the battle 
was won. 

A thick overcoat that Mr. Harkins wore was 
pierced by twenty-one bullets, seven of which 
penetrated his body. He received, besides, 
three or four bad knife-wounds in his back, and 
he was literally dripping blood from head to 

This tragedy had an almost comic sequel. 
After all danger had passed, a sheriff appeared 
on the scene, who placed, not the mob-leader, 
but the Federal officer under arrest. Harkins 
left a guard over the three men whom he had 
shot, and submitted to arrest, but demanded that 
he be taken to the farmhouse where he had left 
his horse. This the sheriff actually refused to 


permit, although Harkins was evidently past all 
possibility of continuing far afoot. Disgusted 
at such imbecility, the deputy stalked away from 
the sheriff, leaving the latter with his mouth 
open, and utterly obsessed. 

A short distance up the road, Harkins met a 
countryman mounted on a sorry old mule. 
" Loan me that mule for half an hour," he re- 
quested ; " you see, I can walk no further." But 
the fellow, scared out of his wits by the spec- 
tacle of a man in such desperate plight, refused 
to accommodate him. 

'' Get down off that mule, or I'll break your 

The mule changed riders. 

When the story was finished, I asked Mr. 
Harkins if it was true, as the reading public 
generally believes, that moonshiners prefer 
death to capture. " Do they shoot a revenue 
officer at sight? " 

The answer was terse: 

"They used to shoot; nowadays they run." 
* * * * * 

We have come to the time when our Govern- 
ment began in dead earnest to fight the moon- 
shiners and endeavor to suppress their traffic. 
It was in 1877. To give a fair picture, from the 
official standpoint, of the state of affairs at that 


time, I will quote from the report of the Com- 
missioner of Internal Revenue for the year 


" It is with extreme regret," he said, " I find 
it my duty to report the great difficulties thaJ; 
have been and still are encountered in many of 
the Southern States in the enforcement of the 
laws. In the mountain regions of West Vir- 
ginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North 
Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, and in some 
portions of Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, the 
illicit manufacture of spirits has been carried on 
for a number of years, and I am satisfied that the 
annual loss to the Government from this source 
has been very nearly, if not quite, equal to the 
annual appropriation for the collection of the 
internal revenue tax throughout the whole coun- 
try. In the regions of country named there are 
known to exist about 5,000 copper stills, many of 
which at certain times are lawfully used in the 
production of brandy from apples and peaches, 
but I am convinced that a large portion of these 
stills have been and are used in the illicit manu- 
facture of spirits. Part of the spirits thus pro- 
duced has been consumed in the immediate 
neighborhood; the balance has been distributed 
and sold throughout the adjacent districts. 

" This nefarious business has been carried on, 


as a rule, by a determined set of men, who in 
their various neighborhoods league together for 
defense against the officers of the law, and at a 
given signal are ready to come together with 
arms in their hands to drive the officers of in- 
ternal revenue out of the country. 

"As illustrating the extraordinary resistance 
which the officers have had on some occasions 
to encounter, I refer to occurrences in Overton 
County, Tennessee, in August last, where a posse 
of eleven internal revenue officers, who had 
stopped at a farmer's house for the night, were 
attacked by a band of armed illicit distillers, 
who kept up a constant fusillade during the 
whole night, and whose force was augmented 
during the following day till it numbered nearly 
two hundred men. The officers took shelter 
in a log house, which served them as a fort, re- 
turning the fire as best they could, and were 
there besieged for forty-two hours, three of their 
party being shot — one through the body, one 
through the arm, and one in the face. I di- 
rected a strong force to go to their relief, but 
in the meantime, through the intervention of 
citizens, the besieged officers were permitted to 
retire, taking their wounded with them, and 
without surrendering their arms. 

" So formidable has been the resistance to the 


enforcement of the laws that in the districts of 
5th Virginia, 6th North Carolina, South Caro- 
lina, 2d and 5th Tennessee, 2d West Virginia, 
Arkansas, and Kentucky, I have found it neces- 
sary to supply the collectors with breech-loading 
carbines. In these districts, and also in the 
States of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, in the 
4th district of North Carolina, and in the 2d 
and 5th districts of Missouri, I have authorized 
the organization of posses ranging from five to 
sixty in number, to aid in making seizures and 
arrests, the object being to have a force suffi- 
ciently strong to deter resistance if possible, and, 
if need be, to overcome it." 

The intention of the Revenue Department 
was certainly not to inflame the mountain peo- 
ple, but to treat them as considerately as pos- 
sible. And yet, the policy of " be to their faults 
a little blind " had borne no other fruit than to 
strengthen the combinations of moonshiners and 
their sympathizers to such a degree that they 
could set the ordinary force of officers at defi- 
ance, and things had come to such a pass that 
men of wide experience In the revenue service 
had reached the conclusion that " the fraud of 
illicit distilling was an evil too firmly estab- 
lished to be uprooted, and that It must be 


The real trouble was that public sentiment in 
the mountains was almost unanimously in the 
moonshiners' favor. Leading citizens were 
either directly interested in the traffic, or were 
in active sympathy with the distillers. " In 
some cases," said the Commissioner, " State 
officers, including judges on the bench, have 
sided with the illicit distillers and have encour- 
aged the use of the State courts for the prose- 
cution of the officers of the United States upon 
all sorts of charges, with the evident purpose 
of obstructing the enforcement of the laws of 
the United States. ... I regret to have to re- 
cord the fact that when the officers of the United 
States have been shot down from ambuscade, in 
cold blood, as a rule no efforts have been made 
on the part of the State officers to arrest the 
murderers; but in cases where the officers of the 
United States have been engaged In enforce- 
ment of the laws, and have unfortunately come 
In conflict with the violators of the law, and 
homicides have occurred, active steps have been 
at once taken for the arrest of such officers, and 
nothing would be left undone by the State au- 
thorities to bring them to trial and punishment." 

There Is no question but that this statement 
of the Commissioner was a fair presentation of 
facts; but when he went on to expose the root 


of the evil, the underlying sentiment that made, 
and still makes, illicit distilling popular among 
our mountaineers, I think that he was singularly 
at fault. This was his explanation — the only 
one that I have found in all the reports of the 
Department from 1870 to 1904: 

" Much of the opposition to the enforcement 
of the internal revenue laws [he does not say all, 
but offers no other theory] is properly attribut- 
able to a latent feeling of hostility to the gov- 
ernment and laws of the United States still pre- 
vailing in the breasts of a portion of the people 
of these districts, and in consequence of this con- 
dition of things the officers of the United States 
have often been treated very much as though 
they were emissaries from some foreign country 
quartered upon the people for the collection ot 

This shows an out-and-out misunderstanding 
of the character of the mountain people, their 
history, their proclivities, and the circumstances 
of their lives. The southern mountaineers, as a 
class, have been remarkably loyal to the Union 
ever since it was formed. Far more of them 
fought for the Union than for the Confederacy 
in our Civil War. And, anyway, politics has 
never had anything to do with the moonshining 
question. The reason for Illicit distilling Is 


purely an economic one, as I have shown. If 
officers of the Federal Government have been 
treated as foreigners, they have met the same 
reception that all outsiders meet from tlie moun- 
taineers. A native of the Carolina tidewater Is 
a " furriner" in the Carolina mountains, and so 
Is a native of the " bluegrass " when he enters 
the eastern hills of his own State. The high- 
lander's word "furriner" means to him what 
^np^apos ^y^ ^Q ^^ ancient Greek. Ordinarily he 
Is courteous to the unfortunate alien, though 
never deferential; in his heart of hearts he re- 
gards the queer fellow with lofty superiority. 
This trait is characteristic of all primitive peo- 
ples, of all isolated peoples. It is provincialism, 
pure and simple — a provincialism more crudely 
expressed in Appalachia than in Gotham or 
The Hub, but no cruder in essence for all that. 
The vigorous campaign of 1877 bore such 
fruit that, In the following year, the Commis- 
sioner was able to report: "We virtually have 
peaceable possession of the districts of 4th and 
5th North Carolina, Georgia, West Tennessee, 
Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas, in many of 
which formidable resistance to the enforcement 
of the law has prevailed. ... In the western 
portion of the 5th Virginia district, in part of 
West Virginia, In the 6th North Carolina dis- 


trict, in part of South Carolina, and in the ad 
and 5th districts of Tennessee, I apprehend fur- 
ther serious difficulties. ... It is very desir- 
able, in order to prevent bloodshed, that the 
internal revenue forces sent into these infected 
regions to make seizures and arrests shall be 
so strong as to deter armed resistance." 

In January, 1880, a combined movement by 
armed bodies of internal revenue officers was 
made from West Virginia southwestward 
through the mountains and foothills infested 
with illicit distillers. *' The effect of this move- 
ment was to convince violators of the law that 
it was the determination of the Government to 
put an end to frauds and resistance of authority, 
and since that time it has been manifest to all 
well-meaning men in those regions of the coun- 
try that the day of the illicit distiller is past." 
In his report for 1881-82 the Commissioner de- 
clared that " The supremacy of the laws . . . 
has been established in all parts of the country." 

As a matter of fact, the number of arrests per 
annum, which hitherto had ranged from 1,000 
to 3,000, now dropped off considerably, and the 
casualties in the service became few and far be- 
tween. But, in 1894, Congress increased the tax 
on spirits from the old 90 cents figure to $ 
a gallon. The effect was almost instantaneous. 


We have no means of learning how many new 
moonshine stills were set up, but we do know 
that the number of seizures doubled and tre- 
bled, and that bloodshed proportionally in- 

Then a new factor entered the moonshining 
problem, and profoundly altered it: the South 
went "dry." 

One might have expected that prohibition 
would be bitterly opposed in Appalachia, in 
view of the fact that here the old-fashioned 
idea still prevailed, in practice, that moderate 
drinking was neither a sin nor a disgrace, and 
that a man had the same right to make his own 
whiskey as his own soup, if he chose to do so. 
At this period those who fought the liquor traf- 
fic on purely moral grounds were a small mi- 
nority, in the mountains. But they were sup- 
ported by the blockaders themselves, who were 
glad to get rid of the competition of registered 
distilleries and saloons or dispensaries, and the 
drinking public preferred the native product 
because it was cheap. Such a combination was 

Then came the World War. Nearly all of 
the able-bodied young men went away into mil- 
itary service. A great number of the boys and 
middle-aged men also left home and went into 


the shipyards or munition plants. The folks 
left at home became more abstemious than ever, 
partly from necessity, partly from loyal eager- 
ness to "do their bit." And there was every- 
where a spiritual uplift, due to the universal 
anxiety and the solemnity of war. The churches 
gained a remarkable ascendancy that they were 
quick to utilize as a political power. The 
Eighteenth Amendment was passed, and the 
Volstead Act. 

The immediate effect of prohibition was to 
put an enormous premium on illicit distilling. 
Formerly the profit on moonshine whiskey had 
been only seventy-five cents to a dollar a gallon, 
at the still-house; to-day it is three to six dollars. 
A man working with a still so small that he can 
pick it up bodily and run away with it, at the 
first alarm, can make a thousand dollars profit 
with it in a few weeks. The still itself is the 
only part of a backwoods distillery that cannot 
be made right out in the hills from materials 
found on the spot. The whole outfit can be 
dismantled in a few minutes, and the metal parts 
can be hidden in a hole in the ground no bigger 
than a common trunk. 

Human nature proved to be the same old 
human nature that it had always been. Farm- 
ers and others, who never before had been 


able to make more than the barest subsistence, 
now saw a chance to get rich in a few months. 
Thus among a poverty-stricken class of moun- 
taineers the temptation to run secret stills in- 
flamed and spread. 

When one man suddenly rises from destitution 
to affluence, his neighbors are moved to follow 
his example. Some of the bolder spirits among 
them will do so, and take chances with the law. 
The others will become jealous, will play the 
informer, and neighborhood feuds result. The 
informers are as secret and underhanded as the 
law-breakers. Both sides became mean, treach- 
erous, dishonorable; and so the moral fiber of 
the whole community is impaired. 

The greater the reward in sight, the greater 
risks w^ill be run for it. The blockaders are 
getting ugly. Arrests have rapidly increased,' 
since prohibition, and so have mortal combats 
between officers and outlaws. Spies are every- 
where, and a hated gendarmerie patrols the 
country. The war between enforcement agents 
and blockaders is more widespread and deadly 
than ever before in our history. We who live 
in the mountains are fairly within gun-crack 
of it. 

I wish I could share the optimism of those 
comfortable people who believe that all this 


will blow over in a few years; but to me the 
outlook is more serious. I used to think that 
good roads would help to check moonshining, 
by making it easier for mountain farmers to 
market their'corn in bulk at a fair profit. Such 
would probably have been the effect under the 
old regime. iBut I never dreamed, in those days, 
that distilled corn juice would soon be retailing 
at ten to twenty dollars a gallon. As things 
are, our new highways will make the distant 
marketing of blockade liquor a veritable line of 
trade. "Mountain dew" will be collected by 
fly-by-night cars and carried to a far extended 

Observe, please, that this is no argument for or 
against prohibition. That is not my business. 
As a descriptive writer it is my duty to collect 
facts, whether pleasant or unpleasant, regard- 
less of my own or any one else's bias, and pre- 
sent them in orderly sequence. It is for the 
reader to draw his own conclusions. 



1LEFT Hazel Creek in the summer of 1907. 
After various wanderings, chiefly in the 
mountains, I came finally to live in Bryson 
City, the county seat of the same county in 
which I had first appeared as a resident of the 

It was along in May, I believe, of 1919, that a 
sturdy, dark-eyed stranger came to the old 
hotel where I live, and was introduced to the 
landlord by the Indian Agent from Lufty, who 
had brought him over in his car. 

"Uncle Bill, this is a gentleman from the 
West who is taking a vacation and wishes to 
ramble about over the mountains. He would 
like to stay with you a few weeks." 

Mr. Quick, as I shall call the stranger, had 
the air of a prosperous ranchman of rather re- 
tired habit. He engaged one of the best rooms 
and was given a seat at table alongside of me. 
We exchanged the usual inanities at supper, but 
neither of us made advances toward sociabil- 



Our visitor wore a conspicuous emblem of a 
fraternal order in which, by the token, he had 
attained high degree. He went out and made 
friends at once with brethren of the lodge, but 
was a bit distant with other people. 

There came a fine day when I was cocked up 
in a chair reading in front of the hotel. Mr. 
Quick seated himself beside me and became ab- 
sorbed at once in a yellow-covered book. 
When the dinner-bell rang we went in, leaving 
our reading matter on a card table in the office. 

It chanced that I was the first one out from 
dinner. In picking up my magazine I noticed 
that the stranger's book was entitled La Guardia 
Blanca, which I instantly recognized as a Span- 
ish translation of one of Conan Doyle's novels: 
a tale of free adventurers of the Middle Ages 
fighting for fun and booty. 

I stood and stared at it like one possessed. 

No ordinary American would be reading an 
English romance in a Spanish version. And 
here, of all places under the sun! 

Thirteen years, ofT and on, had I dwelt in this 
remote region of the Great Smoky Mountains, 
and in all that time I had not till now met man 
or woman here who knew any foreign tongue, 
save three or four college men, a casual Jew 

Buck's Exit. 


peddler or two, and one stray Italian who had 
been jailed on a charge of assassination. 

When the new boarder returned to his tilted 
chair there was a topic of mutual interest at 
last. "I see that you read Spanish," I remarked. 

"O yes," he replied, brightening, "I speak it, 

We dropped our books and began a lively 
conversation. The man's reticence fled. He 
was interested in the Indians; had been among 
them for many years, in the West, in Florida. 
He spoke Creek (or was it Choctaw?) and Nav- 
aho and Seminole. Navaho he had found one 
of the most difficult tongues in the world, the 
grammar intricate, the pronunciation hard for 
our cars to catch and our mouths to utter. 

He knew the western Cherokees, but not their 
language. What a romantic history was theirs! 
How strange that this Eastern Band of ours 
were still occupying a bit of their ancient strong- 
hold in the Carolina Smokies! It would be 
amusing for him to pick up a little of the Chero- 
kee language while here on vacation; and Indian 
relics — he had a collection from other tribes at 
home in Oklahoma. 

One of my own hobbies. Of course I would 
assist him. 


We swapped experiences of western life, and 
a few confidences. For my part, I was a writer, 
of a sort; field sports and out-of-the-way places 
my specialty. Just now I was embarrassed by 
lack of a camera to illustrate some of my stuff. 

Ah! he had a good camera. He would be 
delighted to accompany me into the hills and 
make any pictures I wished. Then, very mod- 
estly, he admitted that he tried a little writing 
now and then himself: adventure stories — that 
sort of thing. Might he see some of my work? 

Might a visitor see Mamma's baby? I took 
him to my office and turned him loose. He 
devoured books and scrap books, and pored 
over magazine files, making intelligent com- 
ments on what he read. 

And so I, too, was a "gun crank." He had 
been one all his life. What did I think of the 
Luger? What of the Army automatic pistol? 
How about the old Frontier model Colt forty- 
five? He had all three with him; also two 
self-loading rifles. Might we not go out for a 
little practice together? 

We could, and we did. Mr. Quick gets this 
nom de guerre in the present narrative from the 
''lightning draw" that he demonstrated with 
pistols, and his rapid, accurate work with the 


His way of carrying a Luger interested me. 
It was neither on the hip nor under the left 
armpit, but in what is called a suspender hol- 
ster, worn inside the band of the trousers and 
attached to the right suspender. The holster 
was made of soft leather with rubber interlin- 
ing on the back. The top of the holster, run- 
ning up behind the pistol butt in an inverted 
V shape, had a slit at the apex in which the 
suspender cast-off was snapped, the suspender 
tab that engages the trousers buttons having 
been removed. The sides of the holster back 
had buttonholes for the trousers buttons, which 
latter were sewed to the inside of the trousers 
band. Thus the holster served to hold up the 
trousers, as a part of the suspenders, and it 
could neither sag down much from the pistol's 
weight nor pull up and interfere when the gun 
was drawn. 

This is about the only way that a rather large 
pistol can be carried concealed when one is not 
wearing a coat, and yet be handy for instant 
drawing. Mr. Quick always wore a waistcoat, 
generally with only one or two buttons fastened. 

The pistol butt was where he could grasp it 
instantly from any position, standing, sitting, or 
otherwise. The gun would not fall out if he 
was scuffling on the ground. A revolver in 


such position would bulge the vest, but an auto- 
matic pistol is so flat that it is not noticeable, 
except to men who are "wise" to that sort of 

One day Mr. Quick was out with a man who 
was something of a pistol shot himself, and they 
were practicing together, the other man having 
a single action Colt revolver in a hip-pocket 
holster. After Quick had shown some of his 
"whirling stunts" he changed to the "quick 
draw." He was using two Lugers. 

"Jim," said he. "I can pull both my guns 
and shoot twice before you can pull your gun 
and shoot once." 

They tried it, and Quick won. 

"Now," said Quick, "I believe I can let you 
take hold of the stock of your pistol, put your 
thumb on the hammer and your finger on the 
trigger, and I will stand with my hands at my 
belt buckle. You count to three, and at the 
word three I'll draw and fire both my guns 
before you can draw and fire yours." 

They tried it, and Quick won. 

My new acquaintance and I found that we 
had many interests in common. We roamed 
the hills, talking natural history, field sports, 
comparative scenery, natives and their ways, 
ever so many things. We went among the 


Cherokees and among the white "branch-water 
people." Quick was a good photographer, and 
he made several pictures to illustrate articles of 
mine in Outing and All Outdoors. 

What I most liked about the man was that he 
was genuine. Never for a moment did he as- 
sume interest for mere politeness sake; nor did 
I. I don't believe we ever bored each other in 
two months of almost daily association. How 
many men or women can say that of each other? 

Blessed is the comradeship of hobby-riders, 
so long as their extravagances are mutual. One 
hobby may do; but Quick and I had a dozen to 
share — ^a whole paddockful, one might say, in 
sporting terms. 

One day my new companion wanted a straight 
stick for a cane. I introduce him to sourwood 
shoots, which seem made by nature for that pur- 
pose. They grow exceptionally straight and 
slender. They season without cracking or 
checking, even when peeled green, and turn 
lightweight but pretty strong and hard. The 
peeled wood is white. 

He passed by those that were of proper size 
for walking-sticks and selected one thick enough 
for a handspike. I marveled, but said nothing. 

Next day I observed that he was carving a 
big spiral on that sourwood club and shaving 


the rest down to cane diameter. Little by little 
the spiral, that stood in relief, assumed the form 
of a rattlesnake. Deftly and neatly he carved 
the snake's scales, the rattle, the wicked fiat 
head and forked tongue. He worked by eye 
alone, sitting easily in his chair, and used no 
tool but a pocketknife. 

In three days he had a rattlesnake wound 
round that stick, complete, and painted to the 
life in watercolors. It was fit to give anyone a 
jolt, and make him gasp, when the stick was 
thrust toward him with a twisting motion. 

Hitherto Mr. Quick had not made many ac- 
quaintances in town or country. But now, as 
he sauntered down the street flourishing his 
stick, he set the girls everywhere screaming and 
giggling, and the gamins crazy with delight. 
People crowded about and followed him. In a 
day or so he was on familiar terms with every- 
body, from the prim school teacher to the low- 
est-lived bootlegger within five miles. 

They called him "the Snake-Stick Man." 
Nobody now cared what his real name might 
be; for had he not been christened and adopted 
by the community for itself? Ah me! 

Mr. Quick was afifable and full of fun, now 
that the crowd was with him. He made several 
snake-sticks, each an improvement on the ear- 


lier ones. On one he had a monkey chasing a 
lizard up the snake's tail and stabbing at it with 
a devil's trident. Tourists passing on trains 
offered him five to ten dollars for a snake-stick, 
but he would not sell. He gave one to me, and 
others to members of his lodge. 

But by and by something began to go wrong 
with the Snake-Stick Man. He neglected his 
meals, or toyed futilely with them. He re- 
mained much in his room, or took sudden long 
walks by himself, and came back with a worried 
air as though harassed by some evil spirit. At 
times he sank into deep despondency. Yet he 
complained little, and explained never a word. 

I was concerned for his health, but delicate 
about intruding into what was his own affair. 
Finally, though, I could bear it no longer, and 
so I asked him what was the matter, and if I 
could do anything for him. 

He answered, with obvious reluctance, that 
he was cursed with such spells at times. It was 
nervous dyspepsia. He had tried the stock 
remedies. Nothing would do him any good but 
a little whiskey. 

Corpo di Baccho! So that was it. Well, he 
might be a neurasthenic, though he didn't look 
it. Anyhow — 

Yes, I did. 


But the availabilities, so far as 1 could reach 
out, were few and small. Then came other new 
acquaintances to Mr. Quick's relief. There is 
a fellow-feeling in this world for nervous dys- 
peptics — or there was then, in the natal year of 
nation-wide prohibition, when we did not yet 
know whether to consider the new crusade as a 
godsend, a calamity or a joke. 

Of course this was moonshine liquor; for it 
had been a long time since there had been any 
other kind in our little part of the South. And 
more of it came to a certain room upstairs in the 
old Cooper House than could fairly be ac- 
counted for in the treatment of one man's gas- 
tric neuroses. 

Mr. Quick did not know it, but a suspicion 
was growing, about this time, in the bosom of 
one H. Kephart, that he, our Snake-Stick Man, 
was "fixing for a good long drunk," as our 
mountaineers delicately phrase it. 

As it turned out, I was dead wrong. A table- 
spoonful, in company, was his limit. Stomach 
so weak it could not stand more at a time. Just 
"a little dib," you know, now and then, to tone 
it up. And I know, now, that he never touched 
a drop unless someone was around. 

Neither the Muse of History nor the Goddess 
of Justice would thank me for saying any more 


about Mr. Quick's liquor supply. Rather it is 
up to me to bring this narrative swiftly to its 

In July came our summer term of Superior 
Court. Came, too, on the opening day, several 
woebegone citizens to a little red brick building 
that adjoins the court-house and is adorned with 
iron bars at the windows. 

Like lightning from a fair sky there crashed 
upon us the report, certified and all too true, that 
our Snake-Stick Man was a secret agent of the 
Indian Bureau who had been picked for the job 
of finding out who was making or vending 
liquor on the Indian Reservation, and to make 
their paths straight to the chain-gang. Out- 
side of the Reservation he had not meddled. 

In our sparsely settled region everybody 
knows nearly everybody else. It logically fol- 
lows that when I looked up at those faces be- 
hind the bars som.e of them had a familiar look. 
It follows that they had seen me running around 
with the Snake-Stick Man for two months or 
more. I could put that in my pipe and smoke 

After the volcano in my bosom had subsided 
enough for a cool survey of the situation I took 
a new interest in Mr. Quick. You would have 
cut him dead, of course. But you are not a 


sporting writer. In a sense, Mr. Quick and I 
were now to swap places. Turn about is fair 
play. He had been using me as a subject of in- 
vestigation; now it was my turn. I purposed 
seeing what sort of a fellow he would prove to 
be when all masks were dropped. 

When he returned to the hotel that evening 
I went straight to him and we had a man-to- 
man talk. 

'*So far as my official business here is con- 
cerned," said he, "I make no apology. I have 
been in the Federal service for twenty years. 
I am, you might say, a soldier; for it amounts 
to the same thing. I obey orders. My loyalty 
to my Government is superior to any other con- 

"But, Kephart," he continued, "I tried my 
darndest not to deceive you in anything else. 
If I made any slip in that, I sincerely beg your 

"You didn't," I answered. "You were the 
real thing. If you had been a poseur, pretend- 
ing an interest in nature, in literature, and so on, 
that you did not honestly feel, you could not 
have put it over, with me, for ten minutes." 

There followed a long talk that touched the 
depths of human nature, but with which neither 


the Muse of History nor the Goddess of Justice 
has any business. 

I have a pent-up thought or two that I will 
get ofT my system. For the average run of de- 
tectives and their business, I have little respect. 
There may be a larger proportion of decent 
fellows among them than I know of; but I have 
met some sorry specimens. 

I cordially detest the public policy that has 
quartered an army of Federal spies upon the 
American people and that was at this tim'e au- 
thorizing them to invade homes and to search in- 
dividuals on mere suspicion. I believe such a 
policy to be wholly and thoroughly bad. 

But here was a dififerent case, and a differ- 
ent sort of man. No common spy, no bluffing 
rough-neck, no graduate of the penitentiary 
turned renegade to his own people, could have 
done what he did. No plausible rogue playing 
the part of a gentleman could have done it, 

There have been gentlemen detectives in fic- 
tion: Monsieur Dupin and Sherlock Holmes, 
for example. Never before had I met one in 
real life. But here he stood. 

Think back a bit. He had been posted 
ibout me, as one who had written a good deal 


about the mountain moonshiners and who evi- 
dently knew what he was talking about. He 
wanted to make my acquaintance at the start 
and yet circumstances did not permit him to tell 
me frankly who and what he was. How did he 
go about it? 

He made no advances. He was a book-lover 
himself, and also a frequenter of far places. 
So he knew from his own experience how it is 
to be isolated from literary centers. He knew 
I must be bored with the commonplace. So 
he simply brought that exotic book within my 
range of vision, with never a look nor a word, 
and the trick was turned. 

And those snake-sticks for the multitude. 
Here again was applied psychology. What 
other trick could have won him the instant at- 
tention and good-will of every class of people, 
in a country town, without his having to say a 
word for himself? 

Here was a detective who actually used brains 
in his business. Here was a detective who had 
the instincts of a gentleman, instead of those of 
a sneak. 

Mr. Quick stayed on at our hotel for another 
month, taking part sometimes in little forays at 
night that were pulled off by local officers, or 
by himself with their assistance. His days of 


usefulness as a detective in western North Caro- 
lina were over. Henceforth he was a straight- 
out raider with no disguise. 

I had long walks and long talks with him 
again, just as before, and regardless of public 
comment. I found him even more interesting 
in his true character than he had been in the 
assumed one. Mystery adds a glamour to com- 
monplace personalities, and they fade out when 
it is dissolved; but Mr. Quick rather gained 
when he stepped out into the light. 

One day, after telling me of an adventure he 
had met in our own "big sticks," as we call the 
forest wilderness that surrounds us, Quick re- 
marked: "Man-hunting is the finest sport in 
the world." 

I kindled at that; for I had heard the same 
sentiment before, expressed in the very same 
words, by other man-hunters who were as differ- 
ent from Quick as men can well be. I kindled 
because I had often wondered, sportsman that 
I am, whether I should find it so if the test hap- 
pened to come my way. I doubted, but was 
ready to be convinced. 

So when Mr. Quick told me, early one morn- 
ing, that he was going on a man-hunt across the 
Smokies into Tennessee, in a region that neither 
he nor I had ever visited, and he invited me to 


go along, I equipped myself hastily and stepped 
into the car that was to take him on the first 
leg of the journey. 



SO we were outward bound on a man-hunt, 
across the Great Smoky Mountains, into 
the Sugarland country of Tennessee. 
Whom we might be after, or what for, was little 
concern of mine. This was supposed to be a 
sporting proposition, and the arrangements 
were in the hands of Mr. Quick. 

It was a bright morning in mid-August, with 
a portent of sultriness here in the river valley, 
but of cool airs and clear prospects on the high 
ranges that we were heading for. 

We sped along the new highway, crossed the 
Tuckaseegee near Governor's Island, and soon 
turned northward along a charming tributary, 
the Okona Lufty. This stream, which is called 
Lufty for short, has its sources among the pre- 
cipitous peaks and ridges between Clingman 
Dome and Mount Guyot — one of the roughest 
and most heavily timbered regions in eastern 

There had been no time for proper prepara- 


tion. We did not even provide ourselves v^ith 
hob-nailed shoes. I assured Quick that this 
vs^ould give us trouble, but that if he could stand 
it, I could. 

At Birdtov^^n, the site of an ancient Cherokee 
village, we took on a short, dark, pleasant faced 
fellow, who was to serve as guide. His Indian 
name, as nearly as one can spell it, was Dee-yah- 
katch-/^^ {a as in father). Out of mercy to 
the printer let us call him Katch. 

We passed the campus of the Indian school at 
Cherokee and turned up the left fork of Lufty. 
Now the flivver chugged hard, and squirmed 
and bumpety-bumped over a road that grew 
worse and worse. It was ten in the morning 
when we arrived at Smokemont, a new sawmill 
village, head of navigation for Ford cars. 
Ahead of us was a hard day's travel afoot. 

At a little wayside store we filled our pockets 
with such luncheon stufif as the place afforded: 
some crackers, some ''meat by-products with 
ham flavor," detestable, but standard at nearly 
every jumping-ofif place in the United States. 
This was not my way of starting on a sporting 
venture; but if Quick could stand that, so could 

Then we swung into a long, steady climbing 


Hitherto there had been little said; but as 
our kigs limbered to their work, so were our 
tongues loosened. By listening to Quick and 
Katch it was easy for me to unravel the plot 
of our adventure. 

There was a bad old citizen, a moonshiner, 
white, with perhaps a streak of red for good 
measure, and he had two sons who were true 
to type. Call them Old Man Rufif, and Buck 
and Jake. 

I don't know that I ever saw the senior Ruff, 
but I remembered the two offsprings well. 

Buck cut such a dash when they arrested him, 
one time, in our town, that they penned him 
alone in the inner cage of the jail. At night he 
wrenched off a steel brace from his cot, with 
which he pried off a hinge and so joined 
the other prisoners. With their help, using the 
brace for a tool, he dug a hole through the 
brick wall. Then it was easy to let himself 
down with knotted blankets. Exit Buck. 

Jake came to town, some months later, and 
proceeded to make merry after the fashion that 
our lumberjacks call "hellin' around." When 
an officer went to run him in, Jake pulled a 
long-barreled Colt (the only Bisley model I 
ever saw in the mountains) ; but he was too 
fuddled to get the drop. After a season in jail, 


he was let out on bond. Presto! he jumped it 

The point of it all, for us, was that Katch 
was Jake's bondsman. Katch now had but a 
short time to produce the aforesaid Jake, or he 
must kiss good-bye to five hundred dollars. 
Nor was that the worst of it: he would lose his 
wife, too, without even a bye-bye kiss; for 
Katch solemnly assured us she would "tear up 
the patch" and forsake him, if he had to part 
with those five hundred dollars. 

"O no, Katch," we soothed him. "She's a 
well-meaning woman, isn't she?" 

"Yes, meanest as hell." 

The truth was that Katch had been implicated 
with the Ruffs in the liquor business, and the 
bonding had been virtually forced on him, much 
to his wife's disgust. 

Katch recently had been "tipped of¥" that the 
three RufTfs had fled together across the state line 
and that they were hiding out in the Sugarlands. 
So he brought his troubles to the detective. 
That gentleman already had federal warrants 
for the fugitives, but, to provide further against 
contingencies, he had our sheriff swear him in 
as a local deputy and give him state warrants as 
well. He also bore papers for one or two 
other fugitive citizens of North Carolina who 


were supposed to be enjoying the innocent hos- 
pitality of Tennessee. 

My own status in the affair was not yet de- 
fined. I had not been sworn in as an officer. 
Yet Mr. Quick had provided me with a .45 Colt 
automatic and a pair of handcuffs. I did not 
assume that he meant me to eat soup with them. 
Probably the swearing business could be at- 
tended to at his convenience. Anyway, I was 
with the bunch; and bunch it I surely would. 
This was a sporting proposition. 

It is a little over nine miles uphill from 
Smokemont to a crossing of the divide that we 
Carolinians call Collins Gap, marked Indian 
Gap on the government map. This is 
the only pass but one that is practicable in 
more than thirty miles of the Smoky range. 
Leading to it, on the Carolina side, there is a 
wagon road of fairly easy grade. Beyond the top, 
on the Tennessee side — but we will come to that. 

A logging railroad was being pushed up 
through the wilderness, along this route. At 
the second construction camp we found a gang 
of Indians working on the grade. All of them 
knew'Katch and his troubles, some of them knew 
me, and we could tell from their sly glances and 
grins that they identified Quick as the Snake- 


Stick Man, and that they felt something was 
in the wind. 

A red athlete on my right sang out to us ^'Bon 

It was startling to hear French from a full- 
blood Cherokee; but I remembered that he and 
others of his tribe had seen hot service, and ac- 
quitted themselves well, "over there." 

We stopped for luncheon at a mossy spring- 
side in the Beech Flat. It was a cold bite, and 
a bad one, but we were ravenous, and down it 

Soon we entered the balsam zone. It was an 
abrupt change from the world we had emerged 
from; real mountains now, and a forest remi- 
niscent of the far North. 

At a few minutes past 3 p. m. we ''topped out" 
in the Gap. This is probably the deepest sag 
in twenty miles of divide from Clingman Dome 
to Mount Guyot. The government map indi- 
cates its elevation to be 5,300 feet above sea- 

If you had before you the Knoxville and 
Mount Guyot sheets of that map (U. S. Geo- 
logical Survey) you might get some idea of the 
kind of country we were in. You would ob- 
serve from the contour lines that we were sur- 
rounded on all sides by high and steep moun- 


tains — ^uninhabited they are, and heavily forest 
clad — and that we stood upon the state line 
that marks the end of North Carolina, the be- 
ginning of Tennessee. 

At this time of year the Gap was a luxurious 
place on which to lounge and view and dream. 
We cast ourselves on the grass and took a good 
smoke as we rested our tired limbs. 

Ahead of us was the descent into Tennessee. 
The road had abruptly ended. Beyond was a 
steep and rocky trail, going down, down along 
a brawling torrent into the gloom of narrow 
gulfs that were choked with laurel and spruce 
and balsam. 

This was the beginning of the Sugarlands, a 
country of ill fame, hidden deep in remote 
gorges, difficult of access, tenanted by a sparse 
population who preferred to be a law unto them- 
selves. For many a year it had been known on 
our side of the mountains as Blockaders' Glory, 
which is the same as saying Moonshiners' Para- 
dise, and we all believed it to be fitly named. 

Thus doth sinless North Carolina look down 
upon sinful Tennessee. 

Katch was the only one of us who had ever 
been down that trail. Quick might as well have 
been on the moon, for all he knew of the land; 
and it is safe to wager that he would have been 


equally unconcerned in either situation. His 
was a temperament that Jules Verne would have 

As for me, all I knew of the Sugarlands was 
what I had glimpsed from afar, standing on 
some peak of the divide. I had seen the Sugar- 
land Mountain, a long ridge running down 
from the main divide, but could only guess 
what lay beyond it from what I saw on the 
hither side. I recalled now my first impression 
of that country to the west of it, at the head of 
the left prong of Little River. It was years 
ago, of a bitter cold wintef evening, that I 
looked down from the north front of Siler's 
'Bald into a great triangular gulf that is formed 
by the Miry Ridge and the Sugarland Moun- 
tain with the main Smokies as a base. 

That was a weird and forbidding land. Vast 
labyrinths of rhododendron covered those pro- 
found and dismal depths, impenetrable, sunless 
in winter, dead but for the murky evergreen of 
shrubs and spruces. The place was unearthly 
in its dreariness and desolation. I turned to 
my companion mountaineer and asked if it had 
a name. 

'*No: not as a whole." 

"Let us call it Godforsaken." 

**A good name: it is fitten." 


But here we were, on the far side of Sugar- 
land, in summer : a very different prospect. We 
started down from the Gap at 4 o'clock, passing 
two recently abandoned browse camps and the 
ruins of a burned log hut. The trail was what 
remained of a military road that had been made 
across the Smokies in the Civil War. What 
sort of road it must have been, in its prime, may 
be judged from the fact that cannon had to be 
dismounted from their carriages and dragged 
over the bare rocks and clay. 

On down we passed through the balsam zone 
and thence into a forest of great hardwood trees 
of many species. The trail meandered along 
the bottom of deep and narrow glens, with great 
cliffs above, and dense laurel on either side. 
Seldom could we see out to right or left. There 
were no side trails. 

We slipped and slid. The toes of our street 
shoes punished us. Rocks of all sizes every- 
where. Any boulder less in size than a house 
we called a "pebble." 

Quick asked the Indian: "How do they 
bury people in this country?" 

"Guess they criminate them," answered 
Katch, meaning cremate, and he misunderstood 
our laughter. 

Down, down, down! And never a sign that 


man had ever been here before us, except along 
the narrow track we followed. The torrent 
alongside us dashed over ledges and boulders 
with hiss and roar. The crossings became diffi- 
cult. There was nowhere a footlog; so we had 
to jump from one waterworn rock to another, in 
our smooth-soled shoes. The submerged rocks 
were slippery as grease. If one of us had fallen, 
the others might have had to make a litter to 
bear him out. 

Five miles from the Collins Gap, and four- 
teen from where we had started afoot, we came 
to the first evidence of settlement. It was a bit 
of cornfield, perched above the trail at a slope 
so steep that it must have been dug up with mat- 
tocks and hoed on hands and knees. A pump- 
kin broke loose from its vine, as we came along, 
fell out of the field and burst on the trail like 
a bomb. 

Why would anyone plant corn on such a 
place? Because the Sugarlanders were a little 
behind the times: they had not yet learned to 
make whiskey out of anything more lethal than 
honest corn. 

We passed through a couple of old clearings, 
very small ones, in each of which stood an aban- 
doned cabin — just a log pen covered with clap- 


boards, a dirt floor, and a pile of rocks shoulder- 
high for a chimney. 

Then the trail wound tortuously through dense 
laurel that grew twelve to twenty feet high, 
gnarled and twisted and with interlocking limbs. 

We were following it, Indian file, of course, 
when Katch, who was in the lead, suddenly 
stopped as if shot. 

"Two or three men have come this way," he 
whispered, pointing to fresh footprints, "and 
they dodged aside when they heard us coming 
toward them." 

It was true. The tracks showed that the men 
were advancing in our direction; that they had 
heard us at thirty or forty yards and had in- 
stantly vanished into the laurel on our left-hand 
side. No one would do that unless he had 
reason to dodge all comers. 

We parted the laurel carefully and squirmed 
through it to a little opening diagonally to the 
rear. There on the ground lay two burlap 
sacks of rations and clothing, a shotgun, and a 
small rifle, hastily abandoned by men who had 
plunged on into the further laurel. 

In such a mizmaze of tough and tangled 
vegetation they would have to crawl. In all 
probability they were lying flat in it, facing 


toward us, not twenty yards distant, and with 
pistols drawn. We, on our side, could not see 
ten feet into that jungle. 

There we stood at gaze, listening, for several 
minutes. Not a twig cracked. It was certain 
that the fugitives had not stirred. They were 
awaiting our move. 

It was a rather ticklish situation. If we ad- 
vanced upon them, we could not help making 
enough noise for them to locate us. They 
would see us before we could see them. If 
they chose to fire, they could do so with certain 

And here was the rub: if these fellows were 
residents of the Sugarlands, instead of the fugi- 
tives we were after, and they killed one or more 
of us, they could readily fix up a story that 
would clear them in their own court. We 
were interlopers if we made the least hostile 

Yet these might be the very men we had come 
so far to seize. If we let them slip by, they 
would be gone for good and all. 

We consulted in whispers. Then Quick de- 
cided to advance. I happened to be on the 
left, nearest the trail, which was but a few yards 
away. If the hiding men, instead of resisting, 
decided to break and run, they would have to 


get to the trail. So I stepped out to it, to be 
ready to head them off. 

It is lucky I did so, though for a totally un- 
expected reason. 

Quick and Katch started abreast and moved 
forward into the thicket, stealthily, a foot at a 
time. It was a tense moment. Then my ear 
caught a faint sound from behind. I wheeled, 
and there stood a tall youth of nineteen or 
twenty, in the trail, bending forward on the 
alert, his shotgun poised, his eyes straining at 
my comrades. He was pale, but resolute. I 
well remember the grim set of his jaw. 

This fellow had been lagging a little behind 
his companions, and had come up in our rear, 
as we were facing back toward the hiding place. 
He had not seen me at all, as there were some 
bushes between us. His attention had been 
riveted on my comrades, who were in his plain 
view about ten yards away. He could have 
killed either of them at the first shot, unless I 
stopped him. 

I spoke: "Are those your things in there 
on the ground?" 

He was startled at finding himself suddenly 
at a disadvantage. 

"No," he answered; "they belong to some 
fellows I'm with." 


''Who are you?" 

He flushed angrily, as though that were none 
of my business, but he gave me a name. 

My companions heard us, and they came out 
of the thicket. 

''What are you doing here?" demanded the 
detective sternly. 

"Going fishing." The lad's answer was 
ready and defiant. Of course he was lying, and 
he knew that we knew it; but every mountaineer 
is schooled from boyhood to meet such an emer- 
gency as this. He knows, as well as any lawyer, 
upon which side the burden of proof rests. 

He was put through a quiz that developed 
nothing. No doubt he and his party were on 
the way to some still-house, where they would 
stay until the "run" was made. But that was 
no afTfair of ours. 

So we moved on. It looked as though we 
were to have some queer experiences in the 
Sugarlands, where the very first person we met 
drew a gun on us. Very well: this was "a 
sporting proposition." 

Looking backward it seemed a long time since 
we had breakfasted. Our luncheon up in the 
Smokies had not counted for much. Canned 
meat and crackers are poor fuel for mountain- 


The shades were deepening into twilight in 
this cleft between the cliffs. So we pressed 
eagerly on, to find some lodging place for the 
night, and a hot supper, God willing, to put 
strength into our weary limbs. 

The lad with the shotgun had told us that the 
first house would be Old Man Warne's.* 

We came to it in about half an hour. It 
was the usual log house of the backwoods, set 
in a small rocky clearing, against a background 
of towering wooded mountainside. Here, in 
the open space, daylight still lingered. 

Through a gap opening southeastward we got 
our first long-range view of a bit of the country 
through which we had descended. More than 
three thousand feet above us rose those two 
sheer pinnacles of rock that they call the Chim- 
neys. They protrude like tusks from the top 
of a ridge so narrow that a man can sit down 
astraddle it and toss a pebble a thousand feet 
down through the air. Yet such is the nature 
of rock and climate in this region that a clifif, 
wherever it is not quite vertical, will hold moist- 
ure and vegetation. So the Chimneys are 

* Names here given to natives of the Sugarlands are 
invented. If I happen to use any that are real in that 
district, it is accidental. Names of localities are genuine 


not bare, but clothed with little tough 
shrubs and bracken, or with balsam and spruce 
and rhododendron where the slopes will permit 
their roots to grapple. (A photograph of the 
summit of one of the Chimneys is shown in this 

To the northeast of us was a face of Bull- 
head Mountain that was vertical, or even over- 
hung; and here was naked rock, hundreds of 
feet high, in which we could see the mouths of 
small caves, like portholes in an old-fashioned 

From Warne's yard came several hounds and 
curs, bristling and bellowing the alarm. Im- 
mediately two or three men appeared, among 
them a stout old fellow, red-faced, essaying to 
smile, but evidently more anxious than pleased 
at our sudden advent. 

Katch did most of the talking for us. He 
told the Warnes what men we were after, and 
why, but did not give them our own names nor 
credentials. I felt that this was a blunder. In 
the mountains it is a stranger's first duty to tell 
who he is, where he is from, and whom he 
knows that might turn out to be a mutual ac- 
quaintance. Whosoever neglects or disdains to 
give such information is likely to suffer for it. 


Old Man Warne said at once that he had seen 
no one answering the description of our fu- 
gitives from justice. He was plainly nervous. 
He had instinctive doubts that we were telling 
him our real business. We had come into his 
neighborhood suddenly, as it were through the 
back door. We were armed. Mr. Quick's 
self-loading Winchester, at least, was conspic- 
uous to everybody. Neither of us, I fancy, was 
reassuring as to "cut of jib." By this time we 
were a tough-looking bunch. 

When strangers come to a mountain home, 
and have told who and what they are, then, if 
the owner likes their appearance, even a little 
bit, he will politely invite them in to rest. Mr. 
Warne did not invite us in; nay, he promptly 
directed us to the next house farther on. 

We could fairly feel the flutter of the women 
and children, who remained indoors peeping 
out through cracks, and no doubt sighing with 
relief when we turned and went on down along 
the Little Pigeon. 

Soon we came opposite another cabin, which 
stood on the far side of the stream from where 
the trail ran. It was set in a remarkable loca- 

In front was the wild torrent, now grown in 


volume, that boiled and roared between large 
rocks. Two loose planks, end to end across 
three of the rocks, served as rude drawbridges 
spanning the chasm. The rocks were too far 
apart for a man to leap from one to the other, 
save at peril of falling stunned or broken into 
the brawling water, which immediately would 
sweep him away. With the planks withdrawn, 
the house would be secure from sudden frontal 
attack. Behind it rose the steep Sugarland 
Mountain, across which, as we were to learn on 
the morrow, there ran but a single difficult trail. 

"A natural fortification," remarked Quick to 

^'Yes: let's call it The Castle." 

Neither of us three adventurers knew any 
residents of the Sugarlands. Katch had been 
advised by someone to seek out a certain Jasper 
Fenn ''who don't fool with liquor, and likely 
will tell you the truth." 

When we came to where the trail broadened 
into a wagon road, and a footbridge crossed 
the stream, we knew we were near Fenn's home. 
Presently it was to be seen: a prosperous look- 
ing place, with a fenced front yard in which 
stood over a hundred bee-gums (hives made of 
cuts from hollow logs). 

I'hoto by S'. 11. I■.^sary 

One of the Chimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains. 


"Looks more civilized," one of us remarked. 
"Here, surely, they will invite us in." 

The usual challenge came from a dog. The 
master of the house appeared. Again Katch ex- 
plained our business, and Quick reinforced him 
with details. 

Mr. Fenn's expression changed from calm to 
perplexity, and then to embarrassment. He did 
not invite us in. He protested that he had 
neither seen nor heard anything of fugitive 
rogues from North Carolina, and we could 
plainly see that he did not want to mix in our 
business. It was also plain that he suspected 
we might be rogues ourselves, putting up a false 
story as a blind while nosing into the home 
afifairs of Sugarland. 

I happened to stand behind him, as he talked 
with my companions, and was whittling a 
groove around my walking-stick to shorten it. 
The groove completed, I tapped the end of the 
stick on the ground and snapped it ofif. Fenn 
jumped as if a gun had been cocked behind him, 
and wheeled around. A man so nervous as 
that may be either cowardly or dangerous. 
There are mighty few cowards in the moun- 
tains, and subsequent events proved that he was 
not one of them. 


Night was fast coming on. We finally asked 
Fenn outright if he would let us have some- 
thing to eat. He muttered an excuse, but con- 
sulted his wife. She did not welcome the sug- 
gestion, but said she could give us ''a cold bite." 
And she did not even warm the coffee. 

Now, I have had years of association with 
mountain people of every degree, and this was 
the first time I ever was made to feel unwel- 
come. But it was also the first time I had ever 
appeared among them as a man-hunter. And 
I will confess right here that, under the circum- 
stances, I did not blame the Sugarlanders. 

When we ofifered pay for our food the Fenns 
would not take a cent. They directed us to the 
next house, but made no suggestion as to where 
we might find lodging for the night. 

We plodded on down the road in gathering 

"Folks around here seem jumpy," I observed. 

"Guess we won't get much out of them," said 

"Not much information," answered Quick, 
"and it looks as if we'd have to bivouac under 
the clouds." 

"It isn't us they're afraid of," I affirmed: "it's 
each other. When a man fleeing from North 
Carolina takes refuge in the Sugarlands, it's a 


cinch that he knows somebody here. He must 
make a living somehow. The natural occupa- 
tion for him is blockading or whiskey-running. 
No doubt the Ruffs would be as welcome at that 
as anybody. Warne may not know them; Fenn 
may not know them; but some of their neigh- 
bors may be hiding or employing them right 
now. Hence the theorem : Don't tell any- 
thing about anybody, at any time, or you'll get 
in Dutch with your neighbors." 

The next two miles were weary ones, and 
black night had fallen upon us by the time we 
came to a place where we thought it might be 
worth while to apply for shelter. 

Dogs rushed at us with fangs glistening and 
hair on end. When the owner appeared there 
was the same old round of question and an- 
swer. We were not asked to stop for the night. 
This man, however, did not seem perturbed. 
He .was smooth and easy in manner; but his 
eyes betrayed secret amusement at our night- 
bound plight. 

He hinted that a neighbor living back on the 
mountainside might know something to our ad- 
vantage, if anybody did. So we stumbled on 
over the back fields, picking our way with our 
electric torches, and finally came to a shack not 
much bigger than a piano-box, or so it seemed 


in the gloom. Dogs, as usual. We helloed. 
A lamp was lighted within the house, and a 
man came out in his bare feet. 

No: he knew nothing. But if our scalawags 
were anywhere in the country they would prob- 
ably be at one of the lumber camps, several 
miles on the far side of Sugarland Mountain. 
A place for us to spend the night? Well, we 
might try Old Man Tuckett's; he kept visitors 


lO p. M. 

Two narrow beds: Katch in one of them; a boy of the 
household in the other. 

One wide bed: Quick and Kephart inspecting it. This 
bed has a trough in the center. Straw mattress underneath, 
feather mattress on top, quilts over all. 

Kephart enters and tries to lie down on the far side. 
Feather mattress slides with him into trough. 

Quick gets in on near side. Mattress slips and piles him 
on top of Kephart. 

Sundry remarks. Each man grabs his edge of bed, 
wriggles toward it, and holds on. 

10:10 P. M. 

Slap. Scratch. "This damned hole is alive with fleas!" 


4 A. M. 

"Say, Quick, are you awake?" 

"Haven't slept a wink all night." 

"Neither have I ; but 'man-hunting is the finest sport in 
the world.' " 

"Shut up! You'll get 'a cold bite' for breakfast pretty 

He guessed wrong. We had things served 
piping hot on the table, soon after daylight: 
hot corn bread, hot coffee, and hot groundhog. 

I'll wager my flint and steel and tinder-box 
that the groundhog's ghost danced a joyful jig 
around that breakfast table. They're all in ca- 
hoot, in Sugarland. 

Out again on the road, we turned back along 
our previous day's line of march, and went to 
a house set in a field. No one was at home but 
an old lady. She was a motherly looking soul, 
neat, handsome, and with gracious manner. 
But the moment we announced our mission she 
fell into a fidget of fear. She tried bravely to 
smile, but her mouth twisted awry. Her 
clasped hands trembled, and her fingers wove in 
and out like a bashful schoolgirl's. 

I pitied her. She dared not tell anything at 
all — though evidently knowing nothing use- 
ful to us — dared not say more than yes or no, 
lest she should get in wrong with her neighbors. 


Poor soul! she had to live here. I was ashamed" 
of myself for bothering her, and so were the 
other men. We said little, and passed on. 

Then we met a man coming with eager an- 
nouncement in his eyes. He was one we had 
noticed the day before. He said that a lumber- 
jack, passing in the night, had told him of a 
fellow who matched our description of Jake 
Rufif, and who was dodging. He had been re- 
cently seen at Barradale's upper logging camp 
on Rough Creek. 

Yet when our informant was through with 
this, his manner suddenly changed. He lifted 
his hand as though taking an oath, his eyes 
flashed, and he fairly trembled with earnestness 
as he exclaimed : "Now, men, if you ever 
breathe who it was told you this, I'll follow you 
to your graves or I'll kill you!" 

I was astounded at the folly of such a threat. 
Here we stood, three armed men confronting 
him, and he knew that one of us was a Fed- 
eral officer, with the -whole power of the Gov- 
ernment backing him. And yet, if we should 
tell where we got this information, he swore 
to our faces that he would follow us up and 
kill us, though it should take a lifetime for him 
to do it. 

You who read these lines may scof¥ and say 


that the man was bluffing. I who write them 
know that he meant just what he said. His con- 
duct in other affairs, that have nothing to do 
with this story, amply proved the man's char- 
acter and nerve. 

Rough Creek is a branch of Little River, 
west of Sugarland Mountain, and it drains that 
dismal gulf which, you may remember, I had 
called Godforsaken. To get there we had to 
go back upstream along the Little Pigeon to the 
place we called The Castle, cross over, and 
follow a trail, a mere footpath, that marks a 
long diagonal up the side of the steep ridge. 
For Sugarland Mountain is, in fact, a "razor- 
back" ridge, rising 1,500 feet above its corre- 
sponding valley, and running for about eight 
miles down from the Smoky divide, without a 
single gap along the crest. It forms a ram- 
part tedious to scale from either side. 

The top of the ridge, where we crossed it, is 
only five feet wide. The descent is as steep on 
the other side, but, instead of thick woods it is 
mostly burnt-over ground, grown up in fire- 
cherry, except where the evergreen laurel had 
shielded it. We were well winded by the time 
we reached a cabin at the foot of the trail. 

We followed an old logging road about a 
mile and a half up Rough Creek to Barradale's 


camp. This camp was a new location, with 
flume, portable mill and cook-house just fin- 
ished, and shacks under construction. 

I introduced my companions to Barradale, 
whom I happened to know, and told him what 
we were after. He said that the description of 
Jake might fit some one of his hands: we could 
see when the men came in to dinner. 

Soon they began to arrive. Down below us, 
about a hundred and fifty yards, I espied a fel- 
low from the Carolina side who was also a 
bond-jumper and for whom Quick had a war- 
rant. We watched him giving a hand at some 
odd job, but let him alone for the present 
lest our more important quarry should take 
alarm. Presently he saw us, straightened up 
for an instant, and then plunged into the laurel 
and was gone. 

The cookee banged his poker on a piece of 
iron swung from a string, to call all hands to 
dinner. The word got about that we were 
hunting somebody. Several of the men became 
nervous, having unpleasant pasts of their own, 
no doubt. Some were mean looking, some sul- 
len, some indifferent, many joyful at the pros- 
pect of a row. 

We took places with them at the long table. 
There were grins back and forth, and scowls, 


but the crew ate in a silence that fairly gave one 
the creeps. It seemed ominous of trouble all 
around. And that is what might have hap- 
pened if an arrest had been tried in their pres- 
ence. One never can tell, in one of these moun- 
tain lumber camps. But it may have been only 
a regulation. In some camps all unnecessary 
talk at meals is prohibited. I asked a woods- 
boss, once upon a time, why the men were 
treated so, like convicts. He answered: 

"If you had to run a hell-roarin' bunch like 
mine, you'd know why. Their idea of conver- 
sation is an argument; their idea of argument 
is a rumpus. I can't afford that where there's 
two hundred dollars' worth of crockery lyin' 

But nothing developed at our dinner. All 
the men were in, and not a Ruff among them. 
The suspect proved to be another man from 
Lufty, also dodging, but not our Jake at all. 

We left the camp and started back toward the 
Sugarlands, disappointed and silent. It was 
hard to have come so far and done all that 
work for nothing. Quick asked me: ''How 
do you like the sport of man-hunting?" 

"Bully; for a chap who is bone-weary, flea- 
bitten and groundhog-fed." 

"Do you always win at any other game?" 


^Who would play if he did?" 

At the foot of the mountain, where our trail 
met the road, there was a shack, and here we 
made inquiry once more. The man and his 
wife assured us that two young strangers and an 
old one had passed them hurriedly on the way 
to the works on Fish Camp Prong, three miles 

It was a slender chance; but Quick and 
'Katch decided to follow it, if I would return to 
the Sugarlands and make arrangements for 
lodging. And so we parted. 

I climbed the mountain and rested a bit on 
the narrow top. Starting to descend, I stepped 
far down on a mossy stone that slipped and 
threw me. In regaining balance I wrenched 
my right knee. It began to puf¥ up immedi- 
ately, and I found that I could not walk down- 
hill, but had to hobble sidewise with the help 
of a stafif. 

It took me two hours to reach the bottom of 
the ridge. I stripped partially and bathed my 
game leg in the cold water of the torrent. 
Then painfully I made my way to Jasper Fenn's. 
He saw me at a distance and came to meet me 
at the gate. I told him of our ill luck, and he 
invited me to come in and rest on the porch. 

We chatted there in the grateful sunlight. 


And then something happened that amused me 
so much that I will tell it here, trusting the 
reader not to think it is mere vanity that makes 
me print it. 

In order to win Fenn's confidence in my reli- 
ability, to the extent of getting lodging for my- 
self and friends, I told him of some of my 
early adventures in the Hazel Creek country. 
It so chanced that I mentioned, among my old 
neighbors. Quill Rose (this is a real name), 
who had been famous for half a century, in 
western Carolina, as a blockader and an original 
genius. To me. Quill was always a humorous 
character, despite his undoubted handiness as 
a gun-fighter. And I told a funny story or two 
about my acquaintance with him. 

Fenn exclaimed: "Quill Rose! Why, I 
saw a picture of him and his wife and two of 
Jake Rose's daughters, one time, in a book." 

"Where did you get the book?" 

"Some furrin women came in here and started 
a settlement-house. They had the book, and 
they borried it to us to read. It was called 
Our Southern Highlanders/^ 

"How did you like it?" 

"Fine. Did you ever see it?" 

"I wrote it." 

Fenn's eyes nearly popped out of his head. 


For a moment he was dumbfounded. Then he 
seized me by the arm and half dragged, half 
carried me, crippled as I was, back to the 
kitchen, crying to his wife: '^Mary — Mary — 
here's the man who wrote that book!" * 

From that moment all suspicion was banished. 
I was welcome: so were my friends. And 
Mary proved herself a most excellent cook. 
There was no more "cold bite." The feast that 
evening will always be a joy to remember. 

By an hour after dark I gave up expecting 
Quick and Katch. They had only one electric 
torch, and I knew that its battery was about 
played out. As my leg was quite stiff and 
painful, I went early to bed. Two or three 
hours later I was aroused by my comrades' 
helloes and Fenn's welcome at the door. They 
had found their way back through the darkness, 
after all, but were empty-handed, and ex- 
hausted by the hard day's tramp. 

Next morning I tried to take up the trail on 
our return journey, but it was too much for the 
game leg. My companions hired a mule for 
me to ride, and a boy to bring it back. 

It turned out that the three Rufifs had not 

* An old edition of the present volume. The native 
mountaineers often refer to it simply as "that book." 


been in the Sugarlands. The tip that Katch 
had been given was false. But all three of 
them were captured, not long afterward, on the 
Carolina side. So Katch did not lose either his 
five hundred dollars or his better half. 

Some time after our little raid, a tragedy 
occurred at Jasper Fenn's. One of his neigh- 
bors came armed to Fenn's home and called him 
out, accusing Fenn, I am told, of having done 
something unethical according to blockaders' 
standard. Fenn shot him dead from the porch. 
A trial resulted in acquittal, on the ground of 



AMONG the boarders at the old Cooper 
House, in my time, there have been some 
interesting characters. One of them was 
a United States deputy marshal, suave, digni- 
fied, a keen judge of human nature, who had the 
knack of arresting men without trouble. There 
was something in his look and manner that 
soothed wild fellows instead of infuriating 
them. He would say: 

''Jim, I have a paper to serve on you. I'm 
sorry; but of course it has to be done. Now if 
you'll come along quietly, and behave, I'll 
treat you like a gentleman. I don't want to put 
handcuffs on such a man as you." 

The average hill-billy, when he is at all sober, 
respects such treatment and will go along with- 
out any fuss. 

One day this officer, returning from a tour 

of duty, came to me and said: "Kep, I had to 

serve a paper on one of your kinsfolk, down on 

Hanging Dog, last week." 



"The deuce you did! I didn't know I had 
any relatives in North Carolina." 

"Well, they spell the name just as you do and 
pronounce it the same way." 

"What kind of people are they?" 

He answered mischievously: "Nicest kind 
of people: they make good liquor." 

"Well, Charlie, if you find any of my kins- 
folk making bad liquor, just hang them, with 
my compliments ; but when they're making pure 
double-distilled corn, I want you to treat them 

"I did. I told the old man that I wouldn't 
arrest him at all if he'd give me his word to 
appear before the United States Commissioner 
at two o'clock the next Wednesday; and he said 
'All right.' " 

"Very considerate. Did he show up?" 

"Sure, he showed up, punctual to the minute, 
and he made bond. Then he invited me to 
come and stay with him any time I'm down 
there. We're the best of friends." 

This was eight or nine years ago, when moon- 
shining was only an offence against the internal 
revenue law — a form of tax-dodging — and trad- 
ing in this contraband liquor was a sort of smug- 
gling. So long as the conspirators were not 
caught, their conscience was as serene as that 


of the lady of fashion who smuggles jewels past 
the customs officers when arriving from Europe. 
And, in fact, their offence was virtually the 
same as hers. 

Old-time blockaders of this sort were shown 
a good deal of consideration by the better class 
of federal officials, who made allowance for en- 
vironment and tradition. When a man, other- 
wise of good repute, was haled before a court in 
spring or summer, for illicit distilling, and 
it was found that he had no one left at home to 
look after the farm, it was customary for the 
judge to parole him until the following winter, 
so that he could go back and make his crop. 
This being done, and his family provided for, 
the man would return without escort, give him- 
self up, and serve his term. 

Still, even in the old days, there always were 
some moonshiners in the mountains who had 
to be handled with severity, if they were caught 
at all. They were not amateurs, but profes- 
sionals. Among them were some desperadoes, 
men already stained with blood and reckless or 
ruthless about shedding more. 

It was among such a class that Hoi Rose 
spent a part of his young manhood. By nature 
and by training. Rose was something of a 
bravo. He had to be such, so long as he mixed 


with the wild crew who made a lifelong busi- 
ness of blockading. I do not mean that he was 
particularly quarrelsome or underhanded; but 
he had the mountaineer's pride of "nerve" de- 
veloped to the point of arrogance, and that was 
sure, sooner or later, to strike a spark of fierce 
resentment in someone of temper similar to 
his own. In the mountains they do not settle 
such affairs with fist fights, but with knives or 

Hoi told me himself that he had killed two 
men in Georgia, but I have forgotten how he 
said the fracas arose. He said he ''had it to 

Later in life, Hoi settled down, quit drinking, 
and made a fair name for himself. He seemed 
to have an ambition to aid in law enforcement, 
and was appointed deputy sheriff in our county. 

It was at this time that I became acquainted 
with him. He boarded for a while at the 
Cooper House, and we saw a good deal of each 
other. Among his friends he was a jolly fel- 
low, fond of chaffing, and yet with a certain re- 
serve that impressed one as a dead-line. 

As soon as he became an officer. Rose dis- 
played more than usual activity in running 
down offenders. He would take more trouble, 
and run greater risks, than the average county 


officer. Man-hunting, for him, was a sport: 
he thoroughly enjoyed it. 

One day he went after a man who, so he told 
me, had sworn to resist arrest, and who was 
known to be a powerful fellow with plenty of 
nerve. Rose testified in court, when the case 
came up for trial, that when he started to read 
his warrant the man slapped him in the face 
and ran away; that he ran in pursuit of the 
fugitive, fell, and his gun was accidentally dis- 
charged. Anyway, the aforesaid runaway is 
now minus a leg. Rose lost his job as deputy 
for having displayed excessive zeal. 

In various cities that I have lived in it is a 
common practice for policemen to shoot at men 
who try to run away from them, and I never 
knew of one of them being disciplined for hav- 
ing done so. But here, in the mountains, the 
law and the custom are that an officer must 
catch his man by running him down, if he can; 
he must not shoot unless dangerous resistance is 

After the passage of the Volstead Act, Rose 
was appointed deputy prohibition enforcement 
officer in our county. He at once began to dis- 
play an ambition to make a record for vigorous 
enforcement, and he lived up to it. He made 
many raids, captured many stills, arrested block- 


aders and bootleggers and anybody that he 
found with even a flask of liquor in his posses- 
sion. He went beyond the limit of his author- 
ity in doing so. 

He used to ask me sometimes to help him 
with his official reports, as he had no typewriter 
and the papers had to be made out in duplicate. 
He kept a pocket diary, and from it he filled In 
the reports, stating for every day in the month 
just where he was, how many miles he traveled, 
and what he did in an official way. From this 
I know how active the man was, and to what 
pains he went to carry the law unto the lawless. 

It is not my intention to praise nor to criti- 
cize, but simply to narrate facts. It is a fact 
that Rose's methods in searching and seizing 
were, in some cases, considered high-handed by 
a large part of the community. It was common 
talk that he searched men or their belongings, 
not only without warrant, but with an over- 
bearing manner that was bound to excite bitter 
feeling and resentment. It was common to hear 
men say to each other: "It wouldn't surprise 
me, any day, to hear that Hoi Rose had been 

I had been hearing a good deal of gossip 
about him and the risks he ran, and, knowing it 
to be mainly true, I spoke to him about it one 


day when he came in for help with his report. 

"Hoi," said I, ''don't you know that it is 
illegal for you to make searches and seizures 
without a warrant?" 

"No, it isn't," he replied. 

"Did you ever read the Constitution of the 
United States?" 

"No; but I'm ordered to do these things, and 
I'll obey orders." 

"One of these days some fellow is going to 
plug you for it." 

"Well, if he does, it will be from behind or 
from the bushes." 

There was something in the tone of his voice, 
and his downcast, thoughtful face, that pierced 
my heart. It was the voice and the manner 
of one confronting death, and realizing it, 
but game to die with his boots on, face to the 

A few weeks later — it was on the 25th of 
October, 1920 — as I was going for the afternoon 
mail, a neighbor asked me: "Have you heard 
of the killing?" 

"No. Who?" 

^'Babe Burnett has killed Hoi Rose, over on 
Brush Creek. Charlie Beck, who was with 
Rose, has 'phoned in to the sheriff. Reed, at 
Asheville, has been notified, and he has called 


out all his men in this district. He is coming 
himself, with Lyerly's bloodhounds." 

The first of the federal officers came in on the 
7 o'clock train from Dillsboro. I was invited 
to go out in his car, with three others. It is 
eighteen miles from our town, Bryson, the 
county seat, to Burnett's farm on Brush Creek. 
There is a good road most of the way, though 
it has several hairpin curves along the edge of 
precipices. We made fast time for a while. 

My thoughts went back to the previous week, 
when "Babe" Burnett had been in to the county 
fair and had stayed at the Cooper House. He 
complained that although he had a good or- 
chard the apples were going to waste because it 
would not pay to haul them to market. 

Burnett was a man of about 60 years, tall, 
spare-built, dark, wrinkled, with determined 
expression and quick nervous movements, a vig- 
orous talker, with snapping eyes. 

There was record that, about five years be- 
fore, he had an altercation with a mail-carrier, 
whom he assaulted and left for dead. He 
escaped to Canada and thence to the State of 
Washington, but returned to his old home here 
about three years later. He told us that he was 
dissatisfied and wanted to sell his farm and 
move west again. 


I thought of him now: a wild-eyed fugitive 
among the rocks and thickets, slipping about 
with gun in hand, prepared to sell his life 
dearly if his hiding place were found. I 
thought of his anguished wife, alone in her 
desolated home, with a murdered man lying in 
her dooryard, and an armed posse with blood- 
hounds coming to take her husband dead or 

And I thought of Hoi Rose: yesterday a 
mountain cavalier, handsome, well groomed, 
debonair, proud of his daring, vain of his record 
as a hunter of men; but to-night lying stark 
and stained in his own blood, done forever with 
his gallantries and his ambitions. 

The men beside me had their minds on the 
work ahead. The deputy marshal on my right, 
leaning forward on his high-power rifle, ex- 
claimed : 'Td rather do this than anything else 
I ever did in my life." 

And the local officer on my left smiled back, 
with a glint in his eye, as though to say: 
''You're right, comrade; man-hunting is the 
finest sport in the world." 

I could appreciate their feeling. It was as 
though one's hunting companion had been 
killed by a wild beast, and it was up to his 
partners to stalk and slay it; except that a mur- 


derous man is more cunning and more danger- 
ous than any beast, and so the stimulus to battle 
is greater. 

But my mind went back again to that forlorn 
woman on the mountain, and her desperate 
broken heart. In the face of such tragedy it 
would be sacrilege to speak of sport. 

We came finally to a rough and narrow by- 
road, up which we had to turn, driving the big 
car carefully, feeling our way around the twists 
and among the rocks. A couple of miles 
further we discovered the cars of the sherifif's 
posse, and a rude little sled such as highlanders 
use where wheeled vehicles cannot go. Around 
the sled was clustered the group of men, con- 
versing solemnly in low tones. 

Rose's body had just been brought down off 
the mountain on this sled, and there it lay, face 
up, the hands bound together so they would not 
dangle in going over the rocky ground. The 
face was calm and unmarred. On Hoi's breast 
there was a group of shot-holes, centered over 
the heart, and tinged with red. 

Charlie Beck was there: he who had been 
Rose's companion on the raid. Charlie was a 
veteran of the Philippines, where he had been 
captured by savages and held prisoner for a 
month in the wilds of the interior. Of late 


years, here at home, he had often been employed 
as deputy by local or federal authorities when 
"bad men" were to be taken. 

Beck told us that Rose had asked him, this 
morning, to go along on a raid after blockade 
stills. He had answered: "Wait a bit; I have 
only eight cartridges." Rose said that would 
be plenty, as he did not expect any trouble. 
Rose himself was in the habit of carrying a shot- 
gun when he thought there was danger of re- 
sistance, and Beck, at such time, would take 
his Winchester rifle; but this time they set forth 
with nothing but their side arms. 

They traveled southward among the Alarka 
Mountains to the home of Burnett, where Rose 
suspected there was some distilling going on. 
Here they found two barrels of apple pomace 
in a state of fermentation. Burnett said he was 
intending to make vinegar out of the pomace. 
Rose told him it was against the law to make 
vinegar in that way, as there was alcohol in the 
pomace. Rose and Beck, at Burnett's direc- 
tion, went over to the orchard and found five 
other barrels of pomace, and near by found a 
"still place" with fresh ashes in the furnace, 
but no still. When they returned to the house, 
having destroyed the pomace, Burnett had gone 


The officers then went to other farms in the 
neighborhood and did some searching without 
result. In the afternoon they returned to Bur- 
nett's home, to arrest him. They found him at 
his crib unloading corn fodder. When Burnett 
saw them he started to run away. The officers 
threw off their coats, drew their pistols, and 
charged after Burnett, calling on him to halt. 

As they ran around the corner of the barn, 
Rose being in the lead, a shot was fired from a 
strawstack about twenty paces away. Beck said 
he could not see the man who fired it, as the 
fellow was behind the stack, or hugging close to 
its side, but he saw the straw blown aside by the 
blast of the gun. 

He heard Rose cry out: "Babe, you have 
killed me!" Then, in a moment: "I believe 
I'm rallying." A few seconds later Beck, who 
by this time had advanced a little ahead of Rose, 
was half deafened by a pistol-shot close to his 
ear. Turning quickly, he saw Rose sagging 
down with his pistol pointing upward. Hoi 
evidently had fired wild in his death struggle. 
He expired in two or three minutes. 

Meantime Beck had plenty to occupy him. 
He expected to be fired at himself, by the man 
behind the strawstack, or by others, for there 
might be several of them in ambush. He 


watched for a head to appear from behind the 

It developed, however, that Burnett, immedi- 
ately after firing, had run along a gully straight 
away from the strawstack, and iBeck did not see 
him until he emerged, about seventy yards away, 
running through bushes as high as his waist. 
Beck fired his eight cartridges at the man, but 
he told us he did not think he hit him, as he had 
only an army pistol. He told me: ''If I had 
had my rifle, I could have hit him." 

He said that Mrs. Burnett protested: "He 
didn't do it," meaning her husband; and ''I 
didn't see anything." Beck replied : "If you'll 
come and look at this man lying dead here, 
you'll see something." 

Beck then went about the neighborhood try- 
ing to get someone to go to the nearest telephone 
and call up the sheriff. But no one would stir. 
Everybody wanted to keep out of the mess — to 
keep from being a witness in court. So Beck had 
to go himself, leaving his comrade where he had 
fallen. The first telephones that he tried were 
not working, and he had to walk seven miles be- 
fore he found one that was in order. Then he 
returned alone to the Burnett house, which was 
now deserted, and he waited there through the 
long hours until the sheriff arrived. 


Anyone who knows these mountains, and the 
character of moonshine bands, will understand 
that there was no sport in that tired man's lonely 
vigil. It took grit; but the strain must have 
been anything but pleasant. 

That night, in the mountain glen, Rose's body 
was transferred to a motor truck, and most of 
us came back with it, arriving in town about 
midnight. Several officers accompanied Char- 
lie Beck back to the Burnett house and waited 
there for the reinforcements they knew were on 
the way. 

At 3 o'clock in the morning I was awakened 
by the deep bellow of bloodhounds. These 
animals are silent when trailing (unlike fox- 
hounds or deerhounds), but they exercise their 
throats sometimes when idle or when being 
transported. Reed's men from Asheville were 
passing in their car, on the way to Brush Creek, 
carrying the two dogs with them. 

The animals took up the trail at Burnett's 
and followed it straight to the home of a neigh- 
bor, three-quarters of a mile away. The neigh- 
bor's wife said that Burnett had come there 
wounded in the leg by a gunshot. She had 
dressed the wound with turpentine and bound it 
up to staunch the blood. It is not unlikely that 
some of the turpentine found its way to Bur- 


nett's feet. That would account for the failure 
of the dogs to trace the man beyond this house. 

(Burnett told me afterwards that when the 
officers came near his hiding place he slipped 
out, circled, came in behind them, and followed 
after them till they gave up the chase. It was 
the safest place for him to be.) 

Rose was buried by his lodge in the little 
cemetery on a hilltop overlooking our town. 

Burnett slipped away to an adjoining county, 
where he had friends who would succor him and 
get him in secret communication with attorneys. 
So he stayed out all winter, and until May of 
the following year. Then, acting on advice of 
counsel, he came in to our town and gave him- 
self up to the sheriff. He was put in jail to 
await trial in July. While he was there, other 
prisoners on two occasions broke jail and 
escaped, but he refused to accompany them. 

Outsiders may wonder why the mountain 
moonshiners, as a rule, do not stay away for 
good and all, once they have escaped from offi- 
cers; especially those charged with a serious 
felony, such as murder. Generally they come 
back sometime and stand trial. One reason is 
that most of them are freeholders, and they 
come back to get their property out of the 
clutches of the law. Another reason is that 


murder, unless plainly of the first degree, is an 
offence that is apt to be treated very leniently 
in mountain courts. 

Meantime, in the old Cooper House, there 
was developing an extraordinary romance. 
Two of Burnett's sons came on from Idaho, 
soon after the old man got into his trouble. 
One of them, Verlin, stayed on, and appeared 
to be in communication with his father, who 
was still hiding out. He boarded ofif and on, at 
the Cooper House. 

Our cook was Ima Rose, daughter of Hoi 
Rose, well named and blooming. Truth to tell, 
she was one of the prettiest mountain girls of the 
buxom type that I ever saw. 

Verlin Burnett was a dashing ex-marine. 

The whole countryside wondered what would 
happen when these two young and vital repre- 
sentatives of the hostile clans had to meet daily 
under the same roof. 

What did happen was so unexpected that it 
made everybody gasp. Verlin and Ima fell in 
love with each other. Their passion was reck- 
less. They went abroad together. 

One of Ima's cousins, a man with "a record," 
came to town and (so I was credibly informed) 


bluntly told Verlin that he would kill him if he 
did not stop going with Ima. 

But the young folks merely stopped prome- 
nading and took to automobiling. Ima tried 
to learn how to drive the car. She sped round 
a corner, knocked two wheels off a car parked 
opposite our hotel, ricochetted across the street, 
hit our telephone pole, broke it short off at the 
butt, and alighted from her battered car smil- 
ing and unhurt. 

Next day the loving couple eloped. My 
suitcase disappeared at the same time (I'll be 
hanged if I ever taught it such tricks) . Within 
a few days we learned that Verlin and Ima were 
married in another county. Sometime later 
they wece reported to have been seen back in 
the Alarka Mountains, both of them carrying 

Weeks later, when I opened my bedroom door 
one morning, there stood my runaway suitcase. 
I picked it up angrily and shook it; but no, it 
didn't glug. 

Imagine my predicament if it had glugged! 
There was no scrap of paper, no sign whatever, 
to prove in whose company that vagabond suit- 
case had been roaming since last I saw it. And 
suppose I had found inside it, let me say, three 


half-gallon fruit jars full of white corn liquor. 
What should I have done? 

Under our present law, if I kept that gallon 
and a half of illicit spirits, I would be guilty of 
''retailing," even though I did nothing at all 
with it. 

If I carried it out to pour it into the river, 
and was intercepted, I would be guilty of 

For either of these crimes I could be sent to 
the chain-gang. 

There was one thing I might lawfully do, in 
such a case: I might stand there in my tracks 
and drink every drop of that liquor, and the law 
could do nothing at all to me. But I am phys- 
ically restrained from that: my belly is too 
small and my head too weak. 

But I might report the matter to the sheriff. 
Yes: in my case it would be safe to do so; for I 
have never made nor sold liquor. Just one lit- 
tle query enters here (bad little query, shameful 
query, but it will come in), namely: What 
would become of that liquor if I turned it over 
to the authorities? 

You may try in vain, in our town (where no 
liquor can be obtained on medical prescription, 
not even to save a life), you will try in vain to 


get a few ounces of whiskey for a sick person, 
from all that is confiscated and stored in jail. 
What ever does become of the gallons and gal- 
lons of that stuff? Nobody seems to know, 
though everybody thinks he "as good as knows." 
Should I encourage such practices? O fie, O 
foh, O fumi 

Since Rose was a federal officer, killed in 
(presumably) the line of duty, a layman might 
expect that Burnett would be tried for murder 
in a federal court. But federal courts have 
no jurisdiction in murder cases, since the United 
States, in their national capacity, have no com- 
mon law. Consequently Burnett had to be 
tried in a state court. 

On the morning of July 28th, 1921, in our 
court house, was opened the case of State of 
North Carolina vs. J. E. ("Babe") Burnett, 
charged with the murder of James Holland 
Rose, F. P. A. 

The Grand Jury twice refused to send in a 
true bill; but, under pressure from the Court, 
finally returned one. A jury was secured 
next day, and the case proceeded to trial. 

Charlie Beck was the only eye-witness for the 
State. His testimony was substantially what he 

splitting Clapboard? 


told us on the night after the killing, with cer- 
tain additions brought out by examination. 
Being asked if Rose carried a warrant for the 
arrest of Burnett, he replied: "If he did, I 
didn't know it." 

"Did you have a warrant yourself?" 


"When you were shooting at Burnett, after 
Rose was killed, did you try to kill him?" 

"Yes, I tried to kill him." 

"Why did you try to kill Burnett when you 
had no warrant for him?" 

"Because he had killed my friend." 

Counsel for the defence tried repeatedly to 
inject into the evidence the question of the right 
of the officers to search the premises of Bur- 
nett, and to arrest him, without a proper war- 
rant. The State attempted to show that Rose 
did have a warrant, but this effort completely 
broke down. 

Burnett took the stand in his own defence. 
He admitted that he had intended to make 
brandy of his surplus apples, but said that some- 
one stole his still. Then, to keep his fruit from 
going to waste, he had prepared to use the pom- 
ace of crushed apples for making vinegar, not 
knowing that he was violating any law in doing 


He said that he found the officers at his house 
in the morning when he was returning from 
work in the field; that Rose said: "I am a rev- 
enue officer and am hunting your whiskey" ; that 
neither of the officers showed any warrant; that 
he voluntarily assisted them in searching the 
premises, and even directed them to some bar- 
rels of apple pomace in the orchard that were 
near an old still furnace that he had repaired. 
The officers found the still place but did not 
thereupon arrest him, but went away. 

Burnett swore that when the officers went out 
into the orchard he went to drive his cattle up 
on the mountain to keep them ofif his crops, 
which were not under fence, as was his custom, 
and that he did not leave with any purpose of 
flight. When he returned, Rose and Beck had 
gone somewhere, and he ate his dinner and then 
went to hauling up his corn fodder. 

He testified that he was at the crib unloading 
the fodder when Rose and his assistant came the 
second time; that they charged him with pistols 
drawn; that he ran toward and around the barn, 
the officers pursuing him; that Rose fired one 
shot at him, hitting him in the leg; that he fell 
over the bars at the end of the barn near the 
strawstack, where he had left his shotgun in the 
morning when he had returned from a squirrel 


hunt; that Rose was still pointing his pistol at 
him, and that Beck also had a pistol drawn; and 
that he then seized his gun and fired at Rose, 
as the only thing he could do to save him- 

He swore that he at no time saw any warrant 
or heard any claim of one ; that he heard no call 
to halt, and did not hear either of the men speak 
during the occurrence; that after he fired, he 
continued his flight, and that he was shot at 
several times by Beck until he passed out of 

Mrs. Burnett testified that one of the men 
fired at her husband as he went toward the barn 
from the crib; that she did not hear them make 
any call to her husband, but that they were ad- 
vancing toward him with their pistols out. 

These were the high spots of the trial. The 
rest was mostly the usual drone of court proce- 

The State in its arguments insisted that Bur- 
nett was guilty of murder in the first degree, the 
fact that he had his gun at the strawstack, and 
that he ran toward it at the approach of the 
ofiicers, and killed Rose as soon as he had se- 
cured the gun, showing premeditation; that in 
the act of secreting the gun and shooting from 
behind the stack, Burnett was making a secret 


assault upon the officers, and that therefore he 
could not claim self-defence; that the officers 
were using no more force than was necessary in 
making the arrest; that, at the time of the kill- 
ing, the Lever Act was in force (a war-time anti- 
profiteering and food-conservation statute) 
which made it a felony to ferment fruits or 
grains; and that the officers found evidence that 
such a felony had been committed, and that 
therefore they had a right to arrest without war- 

The defence claimed that the officers had no 
warrant for the arrest of Burnett; that the Lever 
Act was discredited by having been subsequently 
declared unconstitutional ; that Rose had the rep- 
utation of being a violent and dangerous man; 
that the officers were engaged in an unlawful 
assault upon Burnett, and that he, fearing for 
his life, had a right to shoot. 

The Judge, in his charge to the jury, instructed 
them that the Lever Act was in efifect at the 
time of the killing, and that under its provisions 
the officers did have a right to arrest Burnett 
without a warrant. 

The jury at first stood for acquittal, by a 
large majority; but on the third day of the trial 
it returned a verdict of murder in the second 


degree. The Judge sentenced Burnett to serve 
twelve years in the state prison at hard labor. 

An appeal was taken. The Supreme Court 
of North Carolina, at the fall term of 1921, 
ruled that Rose was not charged with the duty 
of enforcing the Lever Act, nor clothed with the 
power incident to such enforcement; but that 
he was a prohibition officer charged only with 
the duties of enforcing the National Prohibition 
Act and the Harrison Narcotic Act, under which 
the unlawful distillation of spirits for the first 
offence is only a misdemeanor, and that Rose 
had no power of arrest without warrant unless 
he found the person or persons charged "in the 
act of operating an illicit distillery"; further, 
that from all the testimony in this case it ap- 
peared that the prisoner, at the time of the at- 
tempted arrest, was not engaged in operating 
an illicit distillery, but was at his corn crib, on 
his own premises, unloading fodder, and con- 
sequently was not liable to arrest without a 
warrant. On these facts the Supreme Court re- 
manded the case for a new trial. 

At his second trial in our Superior Court, 
Burnett was acquitted. He was immediately re- 
arrested by federal officers, and, at the time of 
this writing, is under bond for appearance at 


the next Federal Court for trial on the charge 
of assaulting a government officer: the same of- 
fence under a different name. 

There is a principle involved in this case that 
is of more importance than the guilt or inno- 
cence of the man accused. It is the principle 
that officers, and courts as well, should them- 
selves respect the supreme law of the land. 

Hoi Rose lost his life in trying to make an 
illegal arrest. He did not know that it was il- 
legal — he was no lawyer, only an enforcement 
agent who depended upon his superiors to de- 
fine his duties and powers. Once when he had 
been warned, in a friendly way, that he had no 
right to search, seize, or make an arrest, without 
a warrant, except where a particular felony was 
being committed, he had answered in all serious- 
ness: "I am ordered to do it, and I will obey 
orders." In that case, he was the victim, not 
merely of his own impulsiveness, but of unlaw- 
ful instructions issued to him by someone higher 

The United States Supreme Court has re- 
peatedly ruled that no federal officer has a right 
to make searches and seizures without due proc- 
ess of law, as defined in the 4th amendment to 
the Constitution. It has been obliged to do this 
more than once because inferior courts have 


shown a tendency to ignore the fundamental 
rights of citizens in this respect. So, in one of 
its recent decisions (Gouled vs. U. S., Feb. 28, 
1921) the Supreme Court has felt it necessary 
to restate the law in stern and unmistakable 
terms. — 

"It would not be possible to add to the emphasis with 
which the framers of our Constitution and this Court 
[cases cited] have declared the importance to political lib- 
erty and to the welfare of our country of the due observance 
of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution by these 
two amendments [4th and 5th]. The effect of the deci- 
sions cited is: 

"That such rights are declared to be indispensable to the 
'full enjoyment of personal security, personal liberty and 
private property;' that they are to be regarded as of the 
very essence of constitutional liberty; and that the guaranty 
of them is as important and as imperative as are the guaran- 
ties of the other fundamental rights of the individual citi- 
zen — the right to trial by jury, to the writ of habeas corpus, 
and to due process of law. 

"It has been repeatedly decided that these amendments 
should receive a liberal construction, so as to prevent steal- 
thy encroachment upon or 'gradual depreciation' of the 
rights secured by them, by imperceptible practice of courts, 
or by well-intentioned but mistakenly over-zealous execu- 
tive officers/' 

There is a lesson here for our citizenry at 
large. Zealots injure their own cause by their 
own excesses. In numerous cases the provisions 
pf th? 1 8th amendment to the Constitution have 


been enforced by systematically violating other, 
and more fundamental, parts of the same Con- 
stitution. That is a dangerous thing to do; for 
nothing is so provocative of lawlessness as the 
policy of an administration or a ruling class to 
"do evil, that good may come." 



MONG the many letters that come to me 
from men who think of touring or camp- 
ing in Highland Dixie there are few but 
ask, " How are strangers treated? " 

This question, natural and prudent though it 
be, never fails to make me smile, for I know 
so well the thoughts that lie back of it: " Sup- 
pose one should blunder innocently upon a 
moonshine still — what would happen? If a 
feud w^ere raging in the land, how would a 
stranger fare? If one goes alone into the moun- 
tains, does he run any risk of being robbed?" 

Before I left the tame West and came into 
this wild East, I would have asked a few ques- 
tions myself, if I had known anyone to answer 
them. As it was, I turned up rather abruptly 
in a backwoods settlement where the " furriner " 
was more than a nine-days wonder. I bore no 
credentials; and it was quite as well. If I had 
presented a letter from some clergyman or from 
the President of the United States it w'ould have 



been — just what I was myself — a curiosity: as 
when the puppy discovers some weird and mar- 
velous new bug. 

Everyone greeted me politely but with un- 
feigned interest. I was welcome to sup and bed 
wherever I went. Moonshiners and man-slayers 
w^ere as affable as common folks. I dwelt alone 
for a long time, first in open camp, afterwards 
in a secluded hut. Then I boarded with a na- 
tive family. Often I left my belongings to look 
out for themselves whilst I went away on expe- 
ditions of days or weeks at a time. And nobody 
ever stole from me so much as a fish-hook or a 
brass cartridge. So, in the retrospect, I smile. 

Does this mean, then, that Poe's character- 
ization of the mountaineers is out of date? 
Not at all. They are the same " fierce and un- 
couth race of men " to-day that they were in 
his time. Homicide is so prevalent in the dis- 
tricts that I personally am acquainted with that 
nearly every adult citizen has been directly 
interested in some murder case, either as prin- 
cipal, officer, witness, kinsman, or friend. 

This grewsome subject I shall treat elsewhere, 
in detail. It is introduced here only to empha- 
size a fact pertinent to the present topic, namely: 
that the private w^ars of the highlanders are 
limited to their own oeople. 


And here is another significant fact: as re- 
gards personal property I do not know any race 
in the world that is more honest than our back- 
woodsmen of the southern mountains. As soon 
as you leave the railroad you enter a land where 
sneak-thieves are rare and burglars almost un- 
heard of. In my own country and all those ad- 
joining it there has been only one case of high- 
way robbery and only one of murder for money, 
so far as I can learn, in the past forty years. 

The mountain code of conduct is a curious 
mixture of savagery and civility. One man will 
kill another over a pig or a panel of fence (not 
for the property's sake, but because of hot words 
ensuing) and he will "come clear" in court 
because every fellow on the jury feels he would 
have done the same thing himself under similar 
provocation; yet these very men, vengeful and 
cruel though they are, regard hospitality as a 
sacred duty toward wayfarers of any degree, 
and the bare idea of stealing from a stranger 
would excite their instant loathing or white- 
hot scorn. 

There are some "dark corners" of the moun- 
tains, mostly on or near state boundary lines, 
where there are bands of desperadoes who defy 
the law. But elsewhere anyone of tact and com- 
mon sense can go as he pleases through Appa- 


lachla without being molested. Tact, however, 
implies the will and the insight to put yourself 
truly in the other man's place. Imagine your- 
self born, bred, circumstanced like him. It 
implies, also, the courtesy of doing as you would 
be done by if you were in that fellow's shoes. 
No arrogance, no condescension, but man to 
man on a footing of equal manliness. 

And there are "manners" in the rudest com- 
munity : customs and rules of conduct that it is 
well to learn before one goes far afield. For 
example, when you stop at a mountain cabin, if 
no dogs sound an alarm, do not walk up to the 
door and knock. You are expected to call out 
Hello! until someone comes to inspect you. 
None but the most intimate neighbors neglect 
this usage, and there is mighty good reason back 
of it in a land where the path to one's door may 
be a warpath. 

If you are armed, as a hunter, do not fail to 
remove the cartridges from the gun, in your 
host's presence, before you set foot on his porch. 
Then give him the weapon or stand it in a cor- 
ner or hang it up in plain view. Even our 
sheriff, when he stopped with us, would lay his 
revolver on the mantel-shelf and leave it there 
until he went his way. If you think a moment 
you can see the courtesy of such an act. It 


proves that the guest puts Implicit trust In the 
honor of his host and In his ability to protect 
all within his house. There never has been a 
case in which such trust was violated. 

I knew a traveler who, spending the night In 
a one-room cabin, was fool enough (I can use 
no milder term) to thrust a loaded revolver 
under his pillow when he went to bed. In the 
morning his weapon was still there, but empty, 
and its cartridges lay conspicuously on a table 
across the room. Nobody said a word about 
the incident : the hint was left to soak In. 

The only real danger that one may encounter 
from the native people, so long as he behaves 
himself, Is when he comes upon a man who Is 
wild with liquor and cannot sidestep him. In 
such case, give him the glad word and move on 
at once. I have had a drunken "ball-hooter'* 
(log-roller) from the lumber camps fire five 
shots around my head as a feu-de-joie, and then 
stand tantalizlngly, with hammer cocked over 
the sixth cartridge, to see what I would do 
about It. As it chanced, I did not mind his fire- 
works, for my head was a-swim with the rising 
fever of erysipelas and I had come dragging my 
heels many an Irk mile down from the moun- 
tains to find a doctor. So I merely smiled at 
the fellow and asked if he was having a good 


time. He grinned sheepishly and let me pass 

The chief drawback to travel In this region, 
aside from the roads, Is not the character of the 
people, but the quality of bed and board. Of 
course there are good hotels at most of the sum- 
mer resorts, but these are few and scattering, at 
present, for a territory so Immense. In most 
regions where there Is noble scenery, unspoiled 
forest, and good fishing, the accommodations 
are extremely rude. Many of the village Inns 
are dirty, and their tables a shock and a despair 
to the hungry pilgrim. There are blessed ex- 
ceptions, to be sure, but on the other hand the 
traveler sometimes will encounter a cuisine that 
is neither edible nor speakable, and will be 
shown to a bed wherein It needs no Sherlock 
Holmes to detect that the previous biped re- 
tired with his boots on, or at least with much 
realty attached to his person. Such places often 
are like that unpronounceable town In Russia of 
which Paragot said : "The bugs are the most 
companionable creatures In It, and they are the 

If one be of the same mind as the plain-spoken 
Dr. Samuel Johnson, that "the finest landscape 
In the world is not worth a damn without a 
cozy inn in the foreground," he should keep to 


the stock show-places of our highlands or seek 
other playgrounds. 

By far the most comfortable way to stay In 
the back country at present Is In a camp of one's 
own where he can keep things tidy and have 
food to suit him. If you be, though, of stout 
stomach and wishful to get true Insight Into 
mountain ways and character you can find some 
sort of boarding-place almost anywhere. In 
such case go first to the sheriff of the county 
(In person, not by letter). This officer Is a 
walking bureau of information and dispenses It 
freely to any stranger. He knows almost every 
man in the county, his character and his cir- 
cumstances. He may be depended upon to di- 
rect you to the best stopping-places, will tell you 
how to get hunting and fishing privileges, and 
will recommend a good packer or teamster If 
such help is wanted. 

Along the railways and main county roads 
the farmers show a well-justified mistrust about 
admitting company for the night. But in the 
back districts the latch-string generally is out 
to all comers. "If you-uns can stand what we- 
uns has ter, w'y come right in and set you a 

If the man of the house has misgivings as to 
the state of the larder, he will say: "I'll ax 


the woman gin she can git ye a bite." Seldom 
does the wife demur, though sometimes her pa- 
tience is sorely tried. 

A stranger whose calked boots betrayed his 
calling stopped at Uncle Mark's to inquire, 
"Can I git to stay all night?" Aunt Nance, 
peeping through a crack, warned her man in a 
whisper: "Them loggers jest louzes up folkses 
houses." Whereat Mark answered the lumber- 
jack : "We don't ginerally foUer takin' in 

Jack glanced significantly at the lowering 
clouds, and grunted : "Uh — looks like I could 
stand hitched all night!" 

This was too much for Mark. "Well!" he 
exclaimed, "mebbe we-uns can find ye a pallet 
— I'll try to enjoy ye somehow." Which, being 
interpreted, means, "I'll entertain you as best I 

The hospitality of the backwoods knows no 
bounds short of sickness in the family or down- 
right destitution. Travelers often innocently 
impose on poor people, and even criticise the 
scanty fare, when they may be getting a lion's 
share of the last loaf in the house. And few 
of them realize the actual cost of entertaining 
company in a home that i^ long mountain miles 
from any market. Fancy yourself making a 


twenty-mile round trip over awful roads to 
carry back a sack of fiour on your shoulder and 
a can of oil in your hand ; then figure what the 
transportation is worth. 

Once when I was trying a short-cut through 
the forest by following vague directions I 
swerved to the wrong trail. Sunset found me 
on the summit of an unfamiliar mountain, with 
cold rain setting in, and below me lay the im- 
penetrable laurel of Huggins's Hell. I turned 
back to the head of the nearest water course, 
not knowing whither it led, fought my way 
through thicket and darkness to the nearest 
house, and asked for lodging. The man was 
just coming in from work. He betrayed some 
anxiety but admitted me with grave politeness. 
Then he departed on an errand, leaving his wife 
to hear the story of my wanderings. 

I was eager for supper ; but madame made no 
move toward the kitchen. An hour passed. A 
little child whimpered with hunger. The 
mother, flushing, soothed it on her breast. 

It was well on in the night when her husband 
returned, bearing a little "poke" of cornmeal. 
Then the woman flew to her post. Soon we had 
hot bread, three or four slices of pork, and black 
coffee unsweetened — all there was in the house. 

It developed that when I arrived there was 


barely enough meal for the family's supper and 
breakfast. My host had to shell some corn, go 
in almost pitch darkness, without a lantern, to 
a tub-mill far down the branch, wait while it 
ground out a few spoonfuls to the minute and 
bring the meal back. 

Next morning, when I offered pay for my 
entertainment, he waved it aside. "I ain't never 
tuk money from company," he said, " and this 
ain't no time to begin." 

Laughing, I slipped some silver into the hand 
of the eldest child. "This is not pay; it's a 
present." The girl was awed into speechless- 
ness at sight of money of her own, and the par- 
ents did not know how to thank me for her, but 
bade me " Stay on, stranger ; pore folks has 
a pore way, but you're welcome to what we 

This incident is a little out of the common, 
nowadays ; but it is typical of what was custom- 
ary until lumbering and other industrial works 
began to invade the solitudes. To-day it is the 
rule to charge twenty-five cents a meal and the 
same for lodging, regardless of what the fare 
and the bed may be. When you think of it, 
this is right, for "the porer folks is the harder 
it is to git things." 

The mountaineers always are eager for news. 


In the drab monotony of their shut-in lives the 
coming of an unknown traveler is an event that 
will set the whole neighborhood gossiping. 
Every word and action of his will be discussed 
for weeks after he has gone his way. This, of 
course, is a trait of rural people everywhere ; 
but imagine, if you can, how it may be inten- 
sified where there are no newspapers, few vis- 
itors, and where the average man gets maybe 
two or three letters a year ! 

Riding up a branch road, you come upon a 
white-bearded patriarch who halts you with a 
wave of the hand. 

"Stranger — meanin' no harm — whar are you 
gwine ?" 

You tell him. 

"What did you say your name was ?" 

You had not mentioned it ; but you do so 

"What mought you-uns foUer for a living?" 

It is wise to humor the old man, and tell him 
frankly what is your business "up this 'way-off 

Half a mile farther you espy a girl coming 
toward you. She stops like a startled fawn, 
wide-eyed with amazement. Then, at a bound, 
she dodges into a thicket, doubles on her course 
and runs back as fast as her nimble bare legs 


can carry her to report that "Some-^0^3' 's 
comin' !" 

At the next house, stopping for a drink of 
water, you chat a few moments. High up the 
opposite hill Is a half-hidden cabin from which 
keen eyes scrutinize your every move, and a 
woman cries to her boy: "Run, Kit, down to 
Mederses, and ax who is he !" 

As you approach a cross-roads store every 
idler pricks up to instant attention. Your pres- 
ence is detected from every neighboring cabin 
and cornfield. Long John quits his plowing. 
Red John drops his axe. Sick John ("who 's 
allers ailin', to hear him tell") pops out of bed, 
and Lyin' John (whose " mouth ain't no praar- 
book, if it does open and shet") grabs his hat, 
with "I jes' got ter know who that feller Is !" 
Then all Johns descend their several paths, to 
congregate at the store and estimate the stranger 
as though he were so many board-feet of lumber 
In the tree or so many pounds of beef on the 

In every settlement there Is somebody who 
makes a pleasure of gathering and spreading 
news. Such a one we had — a happy-go-lucky 
fellow from whom, they said, "you can hear 
the news jinglin' afore he comes within gun- 
shot." It amused me to record the many ways 


he had of announcing his mission by indirec- 
tion. Here is the list : 

"I'm jcs' broguin' about." 

"Yes, I'm jest cooterin' around." 

"I'm santerin' about." 

"Oh, I'm jes' prodjectin' around." 

"Jist traffickin' about." 

"No, I ain't workin' none — ^jest spuddin' 

"Me .? I'm jes' shacklin' around." 

"Yea, la ! I'm jist loaferin' about." 

And yet one hears that our mountaineers have 
a limited vocabulary ! 

Although this is no place to discuss the moun- 
tain dialect, I must explain that to "brogue" 
means to go about in brogues (brogans nowa- 
days). A "cooter" is a box-tortoise, and the 
noun is turned into a verb with an ease charac- 
teristic of the mountaineers. "Spuddin' around" 
means toddling or jolting along. To "shum- 
mick" (also "shammick") is to shuffle about, 
idly nosing into things, as a bear does when 
there is nothing serious in view. And "shack- 
lin' around" pictures a shackly, loose-jointed 
way of walking, expressive of the idle vagabond. 

A stranger takes the mountaineers for simple 
characters that can be gauged at a glance. This 
illusion — for it is an illusion — comes from the 


childlike (directness with which they ask him 
the most intimate questions about himself, from 
the genuine good-will with which they admit 
him to their homes, and from the stark open- 
ness of their domestic affairs in houses where 
no privacy can possibly exist. 

In so far as simplicity means only a shrewd 
regard for essentials, a rigid exclusion of what- 
ever can be done without, perhaps no white race 
is nearer a state of nature than these highlanders 
of ours. Yet this relates only to the externals 
of life. Diogenes sat in a tub, but his thoughts 
were deep as the sea. And whoever estimates 
our mountaineers as a shallow-minded or open- 
minded people has much to learn. 

When Long John asks, "What you aimin' to 
do up hyur ^ How much money do you make ^ 
Whar's your old woman .^" he does not really 
expect sincere answers. Certainly he will take 
them with more than a grain of salt. Conver- 
sation, with him, is a game. In quizzing you, 
the interests that he Is actually curious about lie 
hidden in the back of his head, and he will pro- 
ceed toward them by cunning circumventions, 
seeking to entrap you into telling the truth by 
accident. Being himself born to intrigue and 
skilled in dodging the leading question, he as- 
sumes that you have had equal advantages. 


When you discuss with him any business of 
serious concern, if you should go straight to 
the point, and open your mind frankly, he 
would be nonplussed. 

The fact is that our highlanders are a sly, 
suspicious, and secretive folk. That, too, is a 
state of nature. Primitive society is by no 
means a Utopia or a Garden of Eden. In wil- 
derness life the feral arts of concealment, spy- 
ing, false "leads," and doubling on trails are 
the arts self-preservative. The native back- 
woodsman practices them as instinctively and 
with as little compunction upon his own species 
as upon the deer and the wolf from whom he 
learned them. 

As a friend, no one will spring quicker to 
your aid, reckless of consequences, and fight 
with you to the last ditch ; but fear of betrayal 
lies at the very bottom of his nature. His sleep- 
less suspicion of ulterior motives is no more, no 
less, than a feral trait, inherited from a long line 
of forebears whose isolated lives were preserved 
only by incessant vigilance against enemies that 
stalked by night and struck without warning. 

Casual visitors learn nothing about the true 
character of the mountaineers. I am not speak- 
ing of personal but of race character — type. No 
outsider can discern and measure those power- 


ful but obscure motives, those rooted prejudices, 
that constitute their real difference from other 
men, until he has lived with the people a long 
time on terms of intimacy. Nor can anyone be 
trusted to portray them if he holds a brief either 
for or against this people. The fluttering tour- 
ist marks only the oddities he sees, without 
knowing the reason for them. On the other 
hand, a misguided champion flies to arms at 
first mention of an unpleasant fact, and either 
denies it, clamoring for legal proof, or tries to 
befog the whole subject and run it on the rocks 
of altercation. 

The mountaineers are high-strung and sensi- 
tive to criticism. No one has less use for "that 
worst scourge of avenging heaven, the candid 
friend." Of late years they are growing con- 
scious of their own belatedness, and that touches 
a tender spot. "Hit don't take a big seed to 
hurt a sore tooth." Since they do not see how 
anyone can find beauty or historic interest in 
ways of life that the rest of the world has cast 
aside, so they resent every exposure of their 
peculiarities as if that were holding them up 
to ridicule or blame. 

Strange to say, it provokes them to be called 
mountaineers, that being a "furrin word" 
which they take as a term of reproach. They 


call themselves mountain people, or citizens ; 
sometimes humorously "mountain boomers," 
the word boomer being their name for the com- 
mon red squirrel which is found here only in 
the upper zones of the mountains. Backwoods- 
man is another term that they deem opprobri- 
ous. Among themselves the backwoods are 
called "the sticks." Hillsman and highlander 
are strange words to them — and anything that 
is strange is suspicious. Hence it is next to im- 
possible for anyone to write much about these 
people without offending them or else falling 
into singsong repetition of the same old terms. 

I have found it beyond me to convince anyone 
here that my studies of the mountain dialect are 
made from any better motive than vulgar curi- 
osity. It has been my habit to jot down, on the 
spot, every dialectical word or variant or idiom 
that I hear, along with the phrase or sentence 
in which it occurred ; for I never trust memory 
in such matters. And although I tell frankly 
what I am about, and why, yet all that the folks 
can or will see is that — 

A chiel 's amang ye, takin' notes 
And, faith, he'll prent 'em. 

Nothing worse than dour looks has yet be- 
fallen me, but other scribes have not got off so 


easy. On more than one occasion newspaper 
men who went into eastern Kentucky to report 
feuds were escorted forcibly to the railroad and 
warned never to return. The feudists are scarce 
to blame, for the average news story of their 
wars is neither sacred nor profane history. It 
Is bad enough to be shown up as an assassin ; 
but when one is posed as "cocking the trigger^'' 
of a gun, or shooting a "forty-four" bullet from 
a thirty-caliber "automatic revolver,''^ who in 
Kentucky could be expected to stand It '^. 

The novelists have their troubles, too. Presi- 
dent Frost relates that when John Fox gave a 
reading from his Cumberland tales at Berea 
College "the mountain boys were ready to mob 
him. They had no comprehension of the nature 
of fiction. Mr. Fox's stories were either true or 
false. If they were true, then he was 'no gen- 
tleman' for telling all the family affairs of peo- 
ple who had entertained him with their best. 
If they were not true, then, of course, they were 
libellous upon the mountain people. Such an 
attitude may remind us of the general condem- 
nation of fiction by the 'unco gude' a genera- 
tion ago.' 

As for settlement workers, let them teach 
more by example than by precept. Bishop 
Wilson has given them some advice that can- 


not be bettered : "It must be said with empha- 
sis that our problem Is an exceedingly deHcate 
one. The highlanders are Scotch-Irish In their 
high-splrltedness and proud Independence. 
Those who would help them must do so In a 
perfectly frank and kindly way, showing always 
genuine Interest in them but never a trace of 
patronizing condescension. As quick as a flash 
the mountaineer will recognize and resent the 
intrusion of any such spirit, and will refuse even 
what he sorely needs If he detects In the accents 
or the demeanor of the giver any indication of 
an air of superiority." 

"The worker among the mountaineers," he 
continues, "must 'meet with them on the level 
and part on the square' and conquer their often- 
times unreasonable suspicion by genuine broth- 
erly friendship. The less he has to say about 
the superiority of other sections or of the defi- 
ciencies of the mountains, the better for his 
cause. The fact Is that comparatively few 
workers are at first able to pass muster in this 
regard under the searching and silent scrutiny 
of the mountain people." 

Allow me to add that this is no place for 
the "unco gude" to exercise their talents, but 
rather for those whose studies and travels have 
taught them both tolerance and hopefulness. 


Some well-meaning missionaries are shocked 
and scandalized at what seems to them incur- 
able perversity and race degeneration. It is 
nothing of the sort. There are reasons, good 
reasons, for the worst that we find in any Hell- 
fer-Sartin or Loafer's Glory. All that is the 
inevitable result of isolation and lack of oppor- 
tunity. It is no more hopeless than the same 
features of life were in the Scotch highlands 
two centuries ago. 

But it must be known that the future of this 
really fine race is, at bottom, an economic prob- 
lem, which must be studied hand-in-hand with 
the educational one. Civilization only repels 
the mountaineer until you show him something 
to gain by it — he knows by instinct what he is 
bound to lose. There is no use in teaching 
cleanliness and thrift to serfs or outcasts. The 
independence of the mountain farm must be 
preserved, or the fine spirit of the race will 
vanish and all that is manly in the highlander 
will wither to the core. 

It is far from my own purpose to preach or 
advise. "Portray the struggle, and you need 
write no tract." Still farther is it from my 
thought to let characterization degenerate into 
caricature. Wherever I tell anything that is 
unusual or below the average of backwoods life, 


I give fair warning that It Is admitted only for 
spice or contrast, and let it go at that. But even 
in writing with severe restraint It will be neces- 
sary at times to show conditions so rude and 
antiquated that professional apologists will 
growl, and many others may find my statements 
hard to credit as typical of anything at all In 
our modern America. 

So, let me remind the reader again that full 
three-fourths of our mountaineers still live In 
the eighteenth century, and that In their far- 
flung wilderness, away from large rivers and 
railways, the habits, customs, morals of the peo- 
ple have changed but little from those of our 
old colonial frontier ; in essentials they are 
closely analogous to what we read of lower- 
class English and Scottish life in Covenanter 
and Jacobite times. 


IN delineating a strange race we are prone 
to disregard what is common in our own 
experience and observe sharply what is 
odd. The oddities we sketch and remember 
and tell about. But there is little danger of 
misrepresenting the physical features and men- 
tal traits of the hill people, because among them 
there is one definite type that greatly predomi- 
nates. This is not to be wondered at when we 
remember that fully three-fourths of our high- 
landers are practically of the same descent, have 
lived the same kind of life for generations, and 
have intermarried to a degree unknown in other 
parts of America. 

Our average mountaineer is lean, inquisitive, 
shrewd. If that be what constitutes a Yankee, 
as is popularly supposed outside of New Eng- 
land, then this Yankee of the South is as true 
to type as the conventional Uncle Sam himself. 

A fat mountaineer is a curiosity. The hill 
folk even seem to affect a slender type of come- 



liness. In Alice MacGowan's Judith of the 
Cu7?iber lands, old Jepthah Turrentine says of 
one of his sons: "I named that boy after the 
finest man that ever walked God's green earth 
— and then the fool had to go and git fat on 
me ! Think of me with a fat son ! I allers did 
hold that a fat woman was bad enough, but a 
fat man ort p'intedly to be led out and killed !" 

Spartan diet does not put on flesh. Still, It 
should be noted that long legs, baggy clothing, 
and scantiness or lack of underwear make peo- 
ple seem thinner than they really are. Our 
highlanders are conspicuously a tall race. Out 
of seventy-six men that I have listed just as they 
occurred to me, but four are below average 
American height and only two are fat. About 
two-thirds of them are brawny or sinewy fel- 
lows of great endurance. The others generally 
are slab-sided, stoop-shouldered, but withey. 
The townsfolk and the valley farmers, being 
better nourished and more observant of the 
prime laws of wholesome living, are noticeably 
superior in appearance but not in stamina. 

Nearly all males of the back country have a 
grave and deliberate bearing. They travel with 
the long, sure-footed stride of the born woods- 
man, not graceful and lithe like a moccasined 
Indian (their coarse brogans forbid it), but 


shambling as if every joint had too much play. 
There is nothing about them to suggest the Swiss 
or Tyrolean mountaineers ; rather they resem- 
ble the gillies of the Scotch Highlands. Gen- 
erally they are lean-faced, sallow, level-browed, 
with rather high cheek-bones. Gray eyes pre- 
dominate, sometimes vacuous, but oftener hard, 
searching, crafty — the feral eye of primitive 

From infancy these people have been 
schooled to dissimulate and hide emotion, and 
ordinarily their faces are as opaque as those of 
veteran poker players. Many wear habitually 
a sullen scowl, hateful and suspicious, which in 
men of combative age, and often in the old 
women, is sinister and vindictive. The smile of 
comfortable assurance, the frank eye of good- 
fellowship, are rare indeed. Nearly all of the 
young people and many of the adults plant 
themselves before a stranger and regard him 
w^ith a fixed stare, peculiarly annoying until one 
realizes that they have no thought of imperti- 

Many of the women are pretty in youth ; but 
hard toil in house and field, early marriage, 
frequent child-bearing with shockingly poor 
attention, and ignorance or defiance of the 
plainest necessities of hygiene, soon warp and 

'She knows no other lot. ' 


age them. At thirty or thirty-five a mountain 
woman is apt to have a worn and faded look, 
with form prematurely bent — and what won- 
der ? Always bending over the hoe in the corn- 
field, or bending over the hearth as she cooks 
by an open fire, or bending over her baby, or 
bending to pick up, for the thousandth time, the 
wet duds that her lord flings on the floor as he 
enters from the woods — what wonder that she 
soon grows short-waisted and round-shouldered ? 

The voices of the highland women, low toned 
by habit, often are singularly sweet, being 
pitched in a sad, musical, minor key. With 
strangers, the women are wont to be shy, but 
speculative rather than timid, as they glance 
betimes with "a slow, long look of mild in- 
quiry, or of general listlessness, or of uncon- 
scious and unaccountable melancholy." Many, 
however, scrutinize a visitor calmly for minutes 
at a time or frankly measure him with the gipsy 
eye of Carmen. 

Outsiders, judging from the fruits of labor 
in more favored lands, have charged the moun- 
taineers with indolence. It is the wrong word. 
Shiftless many of them are — afflicted with that 
malady which Barrie calls "acute disinclina- 
tion to work" — but that is not so much in their 
physical nature as in their economic outlook. 


Rarely do we find mountaineers who loaf all 
day on the floor or the doorstep like so many 
of the poor whites of the lowlands. If not 
laboring, they at least must be doing something, 
be it no more than walking ten miles to shoot 
a squirrel or visit a crony. 

As a class, they have great and restless physi- 
cal energy. Considering the quantity and qual- 
ity of what they eat there is no people who can 
beat them in endurance of strain and privation. 
They are great walkers and carriers of burdens. 
Before there was a tub-mill in our settlement 
one of my neighbors used to go, every other 
week, thirteen miles to mill, carrying a two- 
bushel sack of corn (112 pounds) and returning 
with his meal on the following day. This was 
done without any pack-strap but simply shift- 
ing the load from one shoulder to the other, 

One of our women, known as "Long Goody" 
(I measured her ; six feet three inches she stood) 
walked eighteen miles across the Smokies into 
Tennessee, crossing at an elevation of 5,000 feet, 
merely to shop more advantageously than she 
could at home. The next day she shouldered 
fifty pounds of flour and some other groceries, 
and bore them home before nightfall. Uncle 
Jimmy Crawford, In his seventy-second year, 


came to join a party of us on a bear hunt. He 
walked twelve miles across the mountain, carry- 
ing his equipment and four days' rations for 
himself and dogs. Finding that we had gone 
on ahead of him he followed to our camp on 
Siler's Bald, twelve more miles, climbing an- 
other 3,000 feet, much of it by bad trail, finished 
the twenty-four-mile trip in seven hours — and 
then wanted to turn in and help cut the night- 
wood. Young mountaineers afoot easily out- 
strip a horse on a day's journey by road and 

In a climate where it showers about two days 
out of three through spring and summer the 
women go about, like the men, unshielded from 
the wet. If you expostulate, one will laugh and 
reply: "I ain't sugar, nor salt, nor nobody's 
honey." Slickers are worn only on horseback — 
and two-thirds of our people had no horses. A 
man who was so eccentric as to carry an um- 
brella is known to this day as "Umbrell"' John 

In winter, one sometimes may see adults and 
children going barefoot in snow that is ankle 
deep. It used to be customary in our settle- 
ment to do the morning chores barefooted in 
the snow. ''Then," said one, "our feet 'd tin- 
gle and burn, so 't they wouldn't git a bit cold 


all day when we put our shoes on." I knew 
a family whose children had no shoes all one 
winter, and occasionally we had zero weather. 

It seems to have been common, In earlier 
times, to go barefooted all the year. Frederick 
Law Olmsted, a noted writer of the Civil War 
period, was told by a squire of the Tennessee 
hills that "a majority of the folks went bare- 
foot all winter, though they had snow much of 
the time four or five Inches deep ; and the man 
said he didn't think most of the men about here 
had more than one coat, and they never wore 
one in winter except on holidays. 'That was 
the healthiest way,' he reckoned, 'just to 
toughen yourself and not wear no coat.' No 
matter how cold it was, he 'didn't wear no 
coat.' " One of my own neighbors in the 
Smokies never owned a coat until after his mar- 
riage, when a friend of mine gave him one. 

It Is the usual thing for men and boys to wade 
cold trout streams all day, come In at sunset, 
disrobe to shirt and trousers, and then sit In 
the piercing drafts of an open cabin drying out 
before the fire, though the night be so cool that 
a stranger beside them shivers In his dry flan- 
nels. After supper, the women, if they have 
been wearing shoes, will remove them to ease 
their feet, no matter If It be freezing cold — and 


the cracks in the floor may be an Inch wide. 

In bear hunting, our parties usually camped 
at about 5,000 feet above sea level. At this ele- 
vation, in the long nights before Christmas, the 
cold often was bitter and the wind might blow 
a gale. Sometimes the native hunters would lie 
out in the open all night without a sign of a 
blanket or an axe. They would say: "La! 
many's the night I've been out when the frost 
was spewed up so high [measuring three or four 
inches with the hand], and that right around 
the fire, too." Cattle hunters in the mountains 
never carry a blanket or a shelter-cloth, and 
they sleep out wherever night finds them, often 
in pouring rain or flying snow. On their ar- 
duous trips they find it burden enough to carry 
the salt for their cattle, with a frying-pan, cup, 
corn pone, coffee, and "sow-belly," all in a 
grain sack strapped to the man's back. 

Such nurture, from childhood, makes white 
men as indifferent to the elements as Fuegians. 
And it makes them anything but comfortable 
companions for one who has been differently 
reared. During "court week" when the hotels 
at the county-seat are overcrowded with coun- 
trymen, the luckless drummers who happen to 
be there have continuous exercise in closing 
doors. No mountaineer closes a door behind 


him. Winter or summer, doors are to be shut 
only when folks go to bed. That is what they 
are for. After close study of mountain speech 
I have failed to discern that the word draft is 
understood, except in parts of the Virginia and 
Kentucky mountains, where it means a brook. 
One is reminded of the colonial, who, visiting 
England, remarked of the British people: "It 
is a survival of the fittest — the fittest to exist in 
fog." Here, it is the fittest to survive cold, and 
wet, and drafts. 

Running barefooted in the snow Is excep- 
tional nowadays ; but it is by no means the limit 
of hardiness or callosity that some of these peo- 
ple display. It is not so long ago that I passed 
an open lean-to of chestnut bark far back in the 
wilderness, wherein a family of Tennesseans 
was spending the year. There were three chil- 
dren, the eldest a lad of twelve. The entire 
worldly possessions of this family could easily 
be packed around on their backs. Poverty, 
however, does not account for such manner of 
living. There is none so poor in the mountains 
that he need rear his children in a bark shed. 
It is all a matter of taste. 

There is a wealthy man known to everyone 
around Waynesville, who, being asked where 
he resided, as a witness in court, answered : 



'Three, four miles up and down Jonathan 
Creek." The judge was about to fine him for 
contempt, when it developed that the witness 
spoke literal truth. He lives neither in house 
nor camp, but perambulates his large estate and 
when night comes lies down wherever he may 
happen to be. In winter he has been known 
to go where some of his pigs bedded in the 
woods, usurp the middle for himself, and bor- 
row comfort from their bodily heat. 

This man is worth over a hundred thousand 
dollars. He visited the world's fairs at Chicago 
and St. Louis, wearing the old long coat that 
serves him also as blanket, and carrying his 
rations in a sack. Far from being demented, 
he is notoriously so shrewd on the stand and 
so learned in the law that he is formidable to 
every attorney who cross-questions him. 

I cite these last two instances not merely as 
eccentricities of character, but as really typical 
of the bodily stamina that most of the moun- 
taineers can display if they want to. Their 
smiling endurance of cold and wet and priva- 
tion would have endeared them to the first Na- 
poleon, who declared that those soldiers were 
the best who bivouacked shelterless throughout 
the year. 

In spite of such apparent "toughness," the 


mountaineers are not a notably healthy people. 
The man who exposes himself wantonly year 
after year must pay the piper. Sooner or later 
he "adopts a rheumatiz," and the adoption lasts 
till he dies. So also in dietary matters. The 
backwoodsmen through ruthless weeding-out of 
the normally sensitive have acquired a wonder- 
ful tolerance of swimming grease, doughy bread 
and half-fried cabbage ; but, even so, they are 
gnawed by dyspepsia. This accounts in great 
measure for the "glunch o' sour disdain" that 
mars so many countenances. A neighbor said 
to me of another: "He has a gredge agin all 
creation, and glories in human misery." So 
would anyone else who ate at the same table. 
Many a homicide in the mountains can be 
traced directly to bad food and the raw whiskey 
taken to appease a soured stomach. 

Every stranger in Appalachia is quick to note 
the high percentage of defectives among the 
people. However, we should bear in mind that 
in the mountains proper there are few, if any, 
public refuges for this class, and that home ties 
are so powerful that mountaineers never send 
their "fitified folks" or "half-wits," or other 
unfortunates, to any institution in the lowlands, 
so long as it is bearable to have them around. 
Such poor creatures as would be segregated in 


more advanced communities, far from the pub- 
lic eye, here go at large and reproduce their 

Extremely early marriages are tolerated, as 
among all primitive people. I knew a hobble- 
dehoy of sixteen who married a frail, tubercu- 
lous girl of twelve, and in the same small settle- 
ment another lad of sixteen who wedded a girl of 
thirteen. In both cases the result was wretched 
beyond description. 

The evil consequences of inbreeding of per- 
sons closely akin are well known to the moun- 
taineers ; but here knowledge is no deterrent, 
since whole districts are interrelated to start 
with. Owing to the isolation of the clans, and 
their extremely limited travels, there are abun- 
dant cases like those caustically mentioned in 
Kin^ Spruce: "All Skeets and Bushees, and 
married back and forth and crossways and up- 
side down till ev'ry man is his own grand- 
mother, if he only knew enough to figger 

The mountaineers are touchy on these topics 
and it is but natural that they should be so. 
Nevertheless it is the plain duty of society to 
study such conditions and apply the remedy. 
There was a time when the Scotch people (to 
cite only one instance out of many) were in 


still worse case, threatened with race degenera- 
tion ; but improved economic conditions, fol- 
lowed by education, made them over into one 
of the most vigorous of modern peoples. 

When I lived up in the Smokies there was 
no doctor within sixteen miles (and then, none 
who ever had attended a medical school). It 
was inevitable that my iirst-aid kit and limited 
knowledge of medicine should be requisitioned 
until I became a sort of ''doctor to the settle- 
ment.'^''* My services, being free, at once be- 
came popular, and there was no escape ; for, 
if I treated the Smiths, let us say, and ignored 
a call from the Robinsons, the slight would be 
resented by all Robinson connections through- 
out the land. So my normal occupations often 
were interrupted by such calls as these : 

"John's Lize Ann she ain't much ; cain't you- 
uns give her some easin'-powder for that hurtin' 
In her chist ?" 

"Old Uncle Bobby Tuttle's got a pone come 
up on his side ; looks like he mought drap off, 
him bein' weak and right narvish and sick with 
a head-swimmin'." 

* In mountain dialect such words as settlement, govern- 
ment, studyment (reverie) are accented on the last syllable, 
or drawled with equal stress throughout. 


"Ike Morgan Pringle's a-been horse-throwed 
down the clift, and he's In a manner stone dead." 

"Right sensibly atween the shoulders I've got 
a pain ; somethin' 's gone wrong with my stum- 
mick ; I don't 'pear to have no stren'th left ; 
and sometimes I'm nigh sifflicated. Whut you 
reckon ails me ? " 

"Come right over to Mis' Fullwller's, quick; 
she's fell down and busted a rib inside o' her !" 

On these errands of mercy I soon picked up 
some rules of practice that are not laid down 
in the books. I learned to carry not only my 
own bandages but my own towels and utensils 
for washing and sterilizing. I kept my mouth 
shut about germ theories of disease, having no 
troops to enforce orders and finding that mere 
advice incited downright perversity. I admin- 
istered potent drugs in person and left nothing 
to be taken according to direction except 

Once, in forgetfulness, I left a tablet of cor- 
rosive sublimate on the mantel after dressing a 
wound, and the man of the house told me next 
day that he had " 'lowed to swaller it and see 
if it wouldn't ease his headache !" A geologist 
and I, exploring the hills with a mountaineer, 
fell into discussion of filth diseases and germs, 
not realizing that we were overheard. Hap- 


pening to pass an ant-hill, Frank remarked to 
me that formic acid was supposed to be antago- 
nistic to the germ of laziness. Instantly we 
heard a growl from our woodsman: "By God, 
I was expectin'' to hear the like o' that !" 

Ordinarily wounds are stanched with dusty 
cobwebs and bound up in any old rag. If in- 
fection ensues, Providence has to take the 
blame. A woman gashed her foot badly with 
an axe ; I asked her what she did for it ; dis- 
dainfully she answered, "Tied it up in sut and 
a rag, and went to hoein' corn." 

An injured person gets scant sympathy, if 
any. So far as outward demeanor goes, and 
public comment, the witnesses are utterly cal- 
lous. The same indifference is shown in the 
face of impending death. People crowd 
around with no other motive, seemingly, than 
morbid curiosity to see a person die. I asked 
our local preacher what the folks would do 
if a man broke his thigh so that the bone pro- 
truded. He merely elevated his eyebrows and 
replied: "We'd set around and sing until he 

The mountaineers' fortitude under severe 
pain is heroic, though often needless. For all 
minor operations and frequently for major ones 
they obstinately refuse to take an anesthetic, 


being perversely suspicious of everything that 
they do not understand. Their own minor 
surgery and obstetric practice is barbarous. A 
large proportion of the mountain doctors know 
less about human anatomy than a butcher does 
about a pig's. Sometimes this ignorance passes 
below ordinary common sense. There is a 
"doctor" still practicing who, after a case of 
confinement, sits beside the patient and presses 
hard upon the hips for half an hour, explaining 
that it is to "push the bones back into place; 
don't you know they allers comes uncoupled in 
the socket V^ This, I suppose, is the limit ; but 
there are very many practicing physicians in 
the back country who could not name or locate 
the arteries of either foot or hand to save their 

It was here I first heard of "tooth-jumping." 
Let one of my old neighbors tell it in his own 
way : 

"You take a cut nail (not one o' those round 
wire nails) and place its squar p'int agin the 
ridge of the tooth, jest under the edge of the 
gum. Then jump the tooth out with a hammer. 
A man who knows how can jump a tooth with- 
out it hurtin' half as bad as pullin'. But old 
Uncle Neddy Cyarter went to jump one of his 
own teeth out, one time, and missed the nail 


and mashed his nose with the hammer. He 
had the weak trembles." 

"I have heard of tooth-jumping," said I, 
"and reported it to dentists back home, but 
they laughed at me." 

"Well, they needn't laugh; for it's so. Some 
men git to be as experienced at it as tooth- 
dentists are at pullin'. They cut around the 
gum, and then put the nail at jest sich an angle, 
slantin' downward for an upper tooth, or up- 
wards for a lower one, and hit one lick." 

"Will the tooth come at the first lick.?" 

"Ginerally. If it didn t, you might as well 
stick your head in a swarm o' bees and ferget 
who you are." 

"Are back teeth extracted in that way?" 

"Yes, sir; any kind of a tooth. I've burnt 
my holler teeth out with a red-hot wire." 

"Good God!" 

"Hit's so. The wire'd sizzle like fryin'." 

"Kill the nerve.?" 

"No; but it'd sear the mar so it wouldn't be 
so sensitive." 

"Didn't hurt, eh?" 

"Hurt like hell for a moment. I held the 
wire one time for Jim Bob Jimwright, who 
couldn't reach the spot for hisself. I told him 
to hold his tongue back ; but when I touched 


the holler he jumped and wrapped his tongue 
agin the wire. The words that man used ain't 
fitty to tell." 

Some of the ailments common in the moun- 
tains were new to me. For instance, "dew 
pizen," presumably the poison of some weed, 
which, dissolved in dew, enters the blood 
through a scratch or abrasion. As a woman 
described it, "Dew pizen comes like a risin', 
and laws-a-marcy how it does hurt ! I stove a 
brier in my heel wunst, and then had to hunt 
cows every morning in the dew. My leg swelled 
up black to clar above the knee, and Dr. Stinch- 
comb lanced the place seven times. I lay on a 
pallet on the floor for over a month. My leg 
like to killed me. I've seed persons jest a lot 
o' sores all over, as big as my hand, from dew 

A more mysterious disease is "milk-sick," 
which prevails in certain restricted districts, 
chiefly where the cattle graze in rich and deeply 
shaded coves. If not properly treated it is fatal 
both to the cow and to any human being who 
drinks her fresh milk or eats her butter. It is 
not transmitted by sour milk or by buttermilk. 
There is a characteristic fetor of the breath. It 
is said that milk from an infected cow will not 
foam and that silver is turned black by it. 


Mountaineers are divided in opinion as to 
whether this disease is of vegetable or of min- 
eral origin ; some think it is an efflorescence 
from gas that settles on plants. This much is 
certain: that it disappears from "milk-sick 
coves" when they are cleared of timber and 
the sunlight let in. The prevalent treatment is 
an emetic, followed by large doses of apple 
brandy and honey ; then oil to open the bowels. 
Perhaps the extraordinary distaste for fresh 
milk and butter, or the universal suspicion of 
these foods that mountaineers evince in so many 
localities, may have sprung up from experience 
with "milk-sick" cows. I have not found this 
malady mentioned in any treatise on medicine ; 
yet it has been known from our earliest frontier 
times. Abraham Lincoln's mother died of it. 
That the hill folk remain a rugged and 
hardy people in spite of unsanitary conditions 
so gross that I can barely hint at them, is due 
chiefly to their love of pure air and pure water. 
No mountain cabin needs a window to ventilate 
it : there are cracks and cat-holes everywhere, 
and, as I have said, the doors are always open 
except at night. "Tight houses," sheathed or 
plastered, are universally despised, partly from 
inherited shiftlessness, partly for less obvious 




One of Miss MacGowan's characters fairly 
Insulted the neighborhood by building a mod- 
ern house. "Why lordy ! Lookee hyer, Creed," 
remonstrated Doss Provlne over a question of 
matching boards and battening joints, "ef you 
git yo' pen so almighty tight as that you won't 
git no fresh air. Man's bound to have ventila- 
tion. Course you can leave the do' open all 
the time like we-all do ; but when you're a- 
holdin' co't and sech-like maybe you'll want to 
shet the do' sometimes — and then whar'll ye git 
breath to breathe ? . . . All these here glass 
winders Is blame foolishness to me. Ef ye need 
light, open the do'. Ef somebody comes that 
ye don't want In, you can shet it and put up a 
bar. But saw the walls full o' holes an' set in 
glass winders, an' any feller that's got a mind 
to can pick ye off with a rifle ball as easy as 
not whilst ye set by the fire of an evenin'." 

When mountain people move to the lowlands 
and go to living In tight-framed houses, they 
soon deteriorate like Indians. It is of no use 
to teach them to ventilate by lowering windows 
from the top. That Is some more "blame fool- 
ishness" — their adherence to old ways Is stub- 
born, sullen, and perverse to a degree that 
others cannot comprehend. Then, too, in the 
lowlands, they simply cannot stand the water. 


As Emma Miles says : "No other advantages 
will ever make up for the lack of good water. 
There is a strong prejudice against pumps ; if 
a well must be dug, it is usually left open to 
the air, and the water is reached by means of 
a hooked pole which requires some skillful 
manipulation to prevent losing the bucket. 
Cisterns are considered filthy ; water that has 
stood overnight is 'dead water,' hardly fit to 
wash one's face in. The mountaineer takes the 
same pride in his water supply as the rich man 
in his wine cellar, and is in this respect a con- 
noisseur. None but the purest and coldest of 
freestone will satisfy him." 

Once when I was staying in a lumber camp 
on the Tennessee side, near the top of Smoky, 
my friend Bob and I tramped down to the near- 
est town, ten miles, for supplies. We did not 
start until after dinner and intended to spend 
the night at a hotel. It was a sultry day and 
we arrived very thirsty. Bob took some ice- 
water into his mouth, and instantly spat it out, 
exclaiming: "Be damned if I'll stay here; that 
ain't fit to drink; I'm goin' back." And back 
he would have gone, ten miles up a hard grade, 
at night, if someone had not shown us a spring. 

A little colony of our Hazel Creek people 
took a notion to try the Georgia cotton mills. 


They nearly died there from homesickness, 
tight houses, and "bad water." All but one 
family returned as soon as they possibly could. 
While trying to save enough money to get away 
one old man said: "I lied to my God when I 
left the mountains and kem to these devilish 
cotton mills. Ef only He'd turn me Into a var- 
mint Fd run back to-night ! Boys, I dream Fm 
In torment ; an' when I wake up, I lay thar an' 
think o' the spring branch runnin' over the root 
o' that thar poplar; an' I say, could I git me 
one drink o' that water Fd be content to lay 
me down and die !" 

Poor old John ! In his country there are a 
hundred spring branches running over poplar 
roots; but ^'^that thar poplar": we knew the 
very one he meant. It was by the roadside. 
The brooklet came from a disused still-house 
hidden in laurel and hemlock so dense that 
direct sunlight never penetrated the glen. Cold 
and sparkling and crystal clear, the gushing 
water enticed every wayfarer to bend and 
drink, whether he was thirsty or no. John is 
back in his own land now, and doubtless often 
goes to drink of that veritable fountain of 



OMESPUN jeans and llnsey used to be 
the universal garb of the mountain peo- 
ple. Nowadays you will seldom find 
them, except in far-back places. Shoddy "store 
clothes" are cheaper and easier to get. And 
this is a sorry change, for the old-time material 
was sound and enduring, the direct product of 
hard personal toil, and so it was prized and 
taken care of; whereas such stuff as a back- 
woodsman can buy in his crossroads store is 
flimsy, soon loses shape and breaks down his 
own pride of personal appearance. Our average 
hillsman now goes about in a dirty blue shirt, 
wapsy and ragged trousers toggled up with a 
nail or two, thick socks sagging untidily over 
rusty brogans, and a huge, black, floppy hat 
that desecrates the landscape. Presently his 
hatband disappears, to be replaced with a 
groundhog thong, woven in and out of knife 
slits, like a shoestring. 

When he comes home he "hangs his hat on 



the floor" until his wife picks it up. He never 
brushes it. In time that battered old headpiece 
becomes as pliant to its owner's whim, as expres- 
sive of his mood, as a clown's cap in the circus. 
Commonly it is a symbol of shiftlessness and 
unconcern. A touch, and it becomes a banner 
of defiance to law and order. To meet on some 
lonesome road at night a horseman enveloped 
to the heels in a black slicker and topped with 
one of those prodigious funnels that conceals 
his features like a cowl, is to face the Ku Klux 
or the Spanish Inquisition. 

When your young mountaineer is properly 
filled up on corn liquor and feels like challeng- 
ing the world, the flesh, and the devil, he pins 
up the front of his hat with a thorn, sticks a 
sprig of balsam or cedar in the thong for an 
aigrette, and then gallops forth with bottle and 
pistol to tilt against whatsoever may dare op- 
pose him. And on the gray dawn of the morn- 
ing after you may find that hat lying wilted in 
a corner, as crumpled, spiritless and forlorn as 
— its owner, upon whom we charitably drop 
the curtain. 

I doubt, though, if anywhere In this wide 
world mere personal appearance Is more de- 
ceitful than among our mountaineers. The 
slovenly lout whom you shrink from approach- 


ing against the wind is one of the most inde- 
pendent and self-satisfied fellows on earth, as 
quick to resent alms as to return a blow. And 
it is wonderful what soap and clean clothes 
will do ! About the worst specimen of tatter- 
demalion that I ever saw outside of trampdom 
used to come into town every week, always with 
a loaded Winchester on his shoulder. He may 
have washed his face now and then, but there 
was no sign that he ever combed his mane. I 
took him for one of those defectives alluded to 
in a previous chapter ; but no, I was told he was 
"nobody's fool." The rifle, it was explained, 
never left his hand when he was abroad : they 
said that a feud was brewing "over on 'Larky," 
and that this man was "in the bilin'." Well, it 
boiled over, and the person in question killed 
two men in front of his own door. 

When the prisoner was brought into court I 
could not recognize him. A bath, the barber, 
and a new store suit had transformed him into 
a right good-looking fellow — anything but a 
tramp, anything but a desperado. He bore 
himself throughout that grilling ordeal like the 
downright man he was, made out a clear case 
of self-defense, was set at liberty and — promptly 
reverted to a condition in which he is recog- 
nizable once more. 


The women of the back country usually go 
bareheaded around home and often barefooted, 
too, as did the daughters of Highland chiefs a 
century or two ago, and for the same reason : 
simply that they feel better so. When "visit- 
in"' or expecting visitors their extremities are 
clad. They make their own dresses and the 
style seems never to change. When traveling 
horseback they use a man's saddle and ride 
astride in their ordinary skirts with an ingenu- 
ity of ''tucking up" that is beyond my under- 
standing (as no doubt It should be). Often one 
sees a man and a woman riding a-plllion, in 
which case the lady perches sidewise, of course. 

If I were disposed to startle the reader, after 
the manner of impressionistic writers who strive 
after effect at any cost, I could fill a book with 
oddities observed in the mountains, and that 
without exaggeration by commission or omis- 
sion. Let one or two anecdotes suffice ; and 
then we will get back to our averages again. 
I took down the following incident verbatim 
(save for proper names) from lips that I know 
to be truthful. It is Introduced here as a speci- 
men of vivid offhand description in few words : 

"There was a fam'ly on PIck-Yer-Flint that 
was named HIgglns, and another named the 
McBees. They married through and through 


till the whole gineration nigh run out ; though 
what helped was that they'd fly mad sometimes 
and kill one another like fools. They had great 
big heads and mottly faces — ears as big as 
sheepskins. Well, when they dressed up to 
come to church the men — grown men — 'd have 
shirts made of this common domestic, with the 
letters AAA on their backs ; and them bare- 
footed, and some without hats, but with three 
yards of red ribbon around their necks. The 
sleeves of their shirts looked like a whole web of 
cloth jest sewed up together ; and them sleeves'd 
git full o' wind, and that red ribbon aflyin' — 
O my la ! 

"There was lots o' leetle boys of 'em that 
kem only in their shirt-tails. There was cracks 
between the logs that a dog could jump through, 
and them leetle fellers 'd git 'em a crack and 
grin in at us all through the sarmon. 'T ain't 
no manner o' use to ax me what the tex' was 
that day ! " 

I may explain that It still is common in many 
districts of the mountain country for small boys 
to go about through the summer in a single 
abbreviated garment and that they are called 
"shirt-tail boys." 

Some of the expedients that mountain girls In- 
vent to make themselves attractive are bizarre 


in the extreme. Without invading the sanc- 
tities of toilet, I will cite one instance that is 
interesting from a scientific viewpoint. They 
told me that a certain blue-eyed girl thought 
that black eyes were "purtier" and that she 
actually changed her eyes to jet black whenever 
she went to "meetin' " or other public gather- 
ing. While I could see how the trick might be 
worked, it seemed utterly absurd that an un- 
schooled maid of the wilderness could acquire 
either the knowledge or the means to accom- 
plish such change. Well, one day I was 
called to treat a sick baby. While waiting for 
the medicine to react I chanced to mention this 
tale as it had been told me. The father, who 
had blue eyes, solemnly assured me that there 
was "no lie about it," and said he would con- 
vince me in a few minutes. 

He stepped to the garden and plucked a leaf 
of jimson weed. His wife crushed the leaf and 
instilled a drop of its juice into one of his eyes. 
I took out my watch. One side of the eyeball 
reddened slightly. The man said "hit smarts 
a leetle — not much." Within fifteen minutes 
the pupil had expanded like a cat's eye in the 
dark, leaving a rim of blue iris so thin as to 
be quite unnoticeable without close inspection. 
The eye consequently was jet black and its ex- 


presslon utterly changed. My host said it did 
not affect his vision materially, save that 
"things glimmer a bit." I met him again the 
next day and he still was an odd-looking crea- 
ture indeed, with one eye a light blue and the 
other an absolute black. The thing puzzled me 
until I recalled that the Latin name of jimson 
weed is Datura stramonium ; then, in a flash, it 
came to me that stramonium is a powerful 

If our man-killer, hitherto mentioned,, had 
had blue or gray eyes and had not chosen to 
stand trial, then, with a cake of soap and a new 
suit and a jimson leaf he might have made him- 
self over so that his own mother would not have 
known him. These simple facts are offered 
gratis to writers of detective tales, whose stock 
of disguises nowadays is so threadbare and 
(pardon me) so absurd. 

The mountain home of to-day is the log 
cabin of the American pioneer — not such a 
lodge as well-to-do people affect in Adirondack 
"camps" (which cost more than framed struc- 
tures of similar size), but a pen that can be 
erected by four "corner men" in one day and 
is finished by the owner at his leisure. The 
commonest type is a single large room, with 
maybe a narrow porch in front and a plank 


door, a big stone chimney at one end, a single 
sash for a window at the other, and a seven or 
eight-foot lean-to at the rear for kitchen. 

Some of the early settlers, who had first 
choice of land, took pains in building their 
houses, squaring the logs like bridge timbers, 
joining them closely, smoothing their punch- 
eons with an adze almost as truly as if they 
were planed, and using mortar Instead of clay 
in laying chimney and hearth. But such houses 
nowadays are rare. If a man can afford so 
much effort as all that he will build a framed 
dwelling. If not, he will content himself with 
such a cabin as I have described. If he pros- 
pers he may add a duplicate of It alongside 
and cover the whole with one roof, leaving a 
ten or twelve-foot entry between. 

In Carolina they seldom build a house of 
round logs, but rather hew the Inner and outer 
faces flat, out of a curious notion that this adds 
an appearance of finish to the structure. If 
only they would turn the logs over, so that the 
flat faces joined, leaving at least the outside in 
the natural round, the house would need hardly 
any chinking and the effect would be far more 
pleasing to good taste. As it is they merely 
notch the logs at the corners, leaving wide 
spaces to be filled up with splits, rocks, mud — 


anything to keep out the weather. As a matter 
of fact, few houses ever are thoroughly chinked 
and he who would take pains to make a work- 
manlike job of chinking would be ridiculed as 
"fussin' around like an old granny-woman." 
Nobody but a tenderfoot feels drafts, you 

It is hard to keep such a dwelling clean, even 
if the family be small. The whole structure 
being built of green timber throughout, soon 
shrinks, checks, warps and sags, so that there 
cannot be a square joint, a neat fit, a perpendic- 
ular face, or a level place anywhere about it. 
The roof droops in a season or two, the shingles 
curl and leaky places open. Flooring shrinks 
apart, leaving wide and irregular cracks 
through which the winter winds are sucked 
upward as through so many flues (no mountain 
home has a cellar under it). Everywhere there 
are crannies and rough surfaces to hold dust 
and soot, there being probably not a single 
planed board in the whole house. 

But, for all that, there is something very 
attractive and picturesque about the little old 
log cabin. In its setting of ancient forests and 
mighty hills it fits, it harmonizes, where the 
prim and precise product of modern carpentry 
would shock an artistic eye. The very rough- 


ness of the honest logs and the home-made fur- 
niture gives texture to the picture. Having no 
mathematically straight lines nor uniform 
curves, the cabin's outlines conform to its sur- 
roundings. Without artificial stain, or varnish, 
or veneer, it is what it seems, a genuine thing, 
a jewel in the rough. And it is a home. When 
wind whistles through the cracks and snow sifts 
into the corners of the room, ^ one draws his 
stumpy little split-bottomed chair close to the 
wide hearth and really knows the comfort of 
fire leaping and sap singing from big birch logs. 

Every room except the kitchen (if there be a 
kitchen) has a couple of beds in it : enough all 
told for the family and, generally, one spare 
bed. If much company comes, some pallets are 
made on the floor for the women and children 
of the household. In a single-room cabin there 
usually is a cockloft, reached by a ladder, for 
storage, and maybe a bunk or two. Closets and 
pantries there are none, for they would only 
furnish good harborage for woods-rats and 
other vermin. 

Everything must be in sight and accessible to 
the housewife's little sedge broom. Linen and 
small articles of apparel are stored in a chest or 
a cheap little tin trunk or two. Most of the 
family wardrobe hangs from pegs in the walls 


or nails in the loft beams, along with strings of 
dried apples, peppers, bunches of herbs, twists 
of tobacco, gourds full of seeds, the hunter's 
pouch, and other odd bric-a-brac interesting to 
"furrin" eyes. The narrow mantel-shelf holds 
pipes and snuff and various other articles of fre- 
quent use, among them a twig or two of sweet 
birch that has been chewed to shreds at one end 
and is queerly discolored with something brown 
(this is what the mountain woman calls her 
*' tooth brush" — a snuff stick, understand). 

For wall decorations there may be a few 
gaudy advertisements lithographed in colors, 
perhaps some halftones from magazines that 
travelers have left (a magazine is always called 
a "book" in this region, as, I think, throughout 
the South). Of late years the agents for photo- 
enlarging companies have invaded the moun- 
tains and have reaped a harvest ; for if there 
be one curse of civilization that our hillsman 
craves, it is a huge tinted "family group" in 
an abominable rococo frame. 

There is an almanac in the cabin, but no 
clock. "What does man need of a clock when 
he has a good-crowin' rooster .f*" Strange as it 
may seem, in this roughest of backwoods coun- 
tries I have never seen candles, unless they were 
brought in by outsiders like myself. Beef, you 


must remember, is exported, not eaten, by our 
farmers, and hence there is no tallow to make 
candles with. Instead of these, every home is 
provided with a kerosene lamp of narrow wick, 
and seldom do you find a chimney for it. This 
is partly because lamp chimneys are hard to 
carry safely over the mountain roads and partly 
because "man can do without sich like, any- 
how." But kerosene, also, is hard to transport, 
and so one sometimes will find pine knots used 
for illumination ; but oftener the woman will 
pour hog's grease into a tin or saucer, twist up 
a bit of rag for the wick and so make a "slut" 
that, believe me, deserves the name. In fact, 
the supply of pine knots within convenient dis- 
tance of home is soon exhausted, and anyway, as 
the mountaineer disdains to be forehanded, he 
would burn up the knots for kindling rather 
than save any for illumination. 

Very few cabins have carpet on the floor. It 
would hold too much mud from the feet of the 
men who would not use a scraper if there was 
one. Beds generally are bought, nowadays, at 
the stores, but some are home-made, with bed- 
cords of bast rope. Tables and chairs mostly 
are made on the spot or obtained by barter from 
some handy neighbor. In many homes you will 
still find the ancient spinning-wheel, with a 


hand-loom on the porch and in the loft there 
will be a set of quilting frames for making 

Out in the yard you see an ash hopper for 
running the lye to make soap, maybe a few bee 
gums sawed from hollow logs, and a crude but 
effective cider press. At the spring there is a 
box for cold storage in summer. Near by stands 
the great iron kettle for boiling clothes, making 
soap, scalding pigs, and a variety of other uses. 
Alongside of it is the "battlin' block" on which 
the family wash is hammered with a beetle 
("battlin' stick") if the woman has no wash- 
board, which very often is the case. ■ 

Naturally there can be no privacy and hence 
no delicacy, in such a home. I never will for- 
get my embarrassment about getting to bed the 
first night I ever spent in a one-room cabin 
where there was a good-sized family. I did 
not know what was expected of me. When 
everybody looked sleepy I went outdoors and 
strolled around in the moonlight until the 
women had time to retire. On returning to the 
house I found them still bolt upright around 
the hearth. Then the hostess pointed to the bed 
I was to occupy and said it was ready whenever 
I was. Well, I "shucked off my clothes," tum- 
bled m, turned my face to the wall, and imme- 


diately everybody else did the same. That is 
the way to do : just go to bed ! I lay there awake 
for a long time. Finally I had to roll over. A 
ruddy glow from the embers showed the family 
in all postures of deep, healthy slumber. It 
also showed something glittering on the nipple 
of the long, muzzle-loading rifle that hung over 
the father's bed. It was a bright, new percus- 
sion cap, where a greased rag had been when I 
went out for my moonlight stroll. There was 
no need of a curtain In that house. They could 
do without. 

I have been describing an average mountain 
home. In valleys and coves there are better 
ones, of course. Along the railroads, and on fer- 
tile plateaus between the Blue Ridge and the 
Unakas, are hundreds of fine farms, cultivated 
by machinery, and here dwell a class of farm- 
ers that are scarcely to be distinguished from 
people of similar station In the West. But a 
prosperous and educated few are not the peo- 
ple. When speaking of southern mountaineers 
I mean the mass, or the average, and the pic- 
tures here given are typical of that mass. It is 
not the well-to-do valley people, but the real 
mountaineers, who are especially Interesting to 
the reading public ; and they are Interesting 
chiefly because they preserve traits and manners 


that have been transmitted almost unchanged 
from ancient times — because, as John Fox puts 
it, they are "a distinct remnant of an Anglo- 
Saxon past." 

Almost everywhere In the backwoods of 
Appalachia we have with us to-day, In flesh 
and blood, the Indian-fighter of our colonial 
border — aye, back of him, the half-wild clans- 
man of elder Britain — adapted to other condi- 
tions, but still virtually the same in character, 
in ideas, in attitude toward the outer world. 
Here, in great part, is spoken to-day the lan- 
guage of Piers the Ploughman, a speech long 
dead elsewhere, save as fragments survive in 
some dialects of rural England. 

No picture of mountain life would be com- 
plete or just if it omitted a class lower than the 
average hlllsman I have been describing. As 
this Is not a pleasant topic, I shall be terse. 
Hundreds of backwoods families, large ones 
at that, exist in "blind" cabins that remind one 
somewhat of Irish hovels, Norwegian saeters, 
the "black houses" of the Hebrides, the wln- 
dowless rock piles inhabited by Corsican shep- 
herds and by Basques of the Pyrenees. Such a 
cabin has but one room for all purposes. In 
rainy or gusty weather, when the two doors must 
be closed, no light enters the room save through 


cracks in the wall and down the chimney. In 
the damp climate of western Carolina such an 
interior is fusty, or even wet. In many cases 
the chimney is no more than a semi-circular pile 
of rough rocks and rises no higher than a man's 
shoulder, hence the common saying, "You can 
set by the fire and spit out through the chimbly." 
When the wind blows "contrary" one's lungs 
choke and his eyes stream from the smoke. 
I In some of these places you will find a "pet 
pig" harbored in the house. I know of two 
cases where the pig was kept in a box directly 
under the table, so that scraps could be chucked 
to him without rising from dinner. 
i Hastening from this extreme, we still shall 
find dire poverty the rule rather than the excep- 
tion among the multitude of "branch-water 
people." One house will have only an earthen 
floor; another will be so small that "you cain't 
cuss a cat in it 'thout gittin' ha'r in yer teeth." 
Utensils are limited to a frying-pan, an iron pot, 
a coffee-pot, a bucket, and some gourds. There 
is not enough tableware to go around, and chil- 
dren eat out of their parents' plates, or all 
"soup-in together" around one bowl of stew or 

Even to families that are fairly well-to-do 
there will come periods of famine, such as Lin- 


coin, speaking of his boyhood, called "pretty- 
pinching times." Hickory ashes then are used 
as a substitute for soda in biscuits, and the empty 
salt-gourd will be soaked for brine to cook with. 
Once, when I was boarding with a good family, 
our stores ran out of everything, and none of 
our neighbors had the least to spare. We had 
no meat of any kind for two weeks (the game 
had migrated) and no lard or other grease for 
nearly a week. Then the meal and salt played 
out. One day we were reduced to potatoes 
"straight," which were parboiled in fresh 
water, and then burnt a little on the surface as 
substitute for salt. Another day we had not a 
bite but string beans boiled in unsalted water. 

It is not uncommon in the far backwoods for 
a traveler, asking for a match, to be told there 
is none in the house, nor even the pioneers' flint 
and steel. Should the embers on the hearth go 
out, someone must tramp to a neighbor's and 
fetch fire on a torch. Hence the saying : "Have 
you come to borry fire, that you're in sich a 
hurry you can't chat ?" 

The shifts and expedients to which some of 
the mountain women are put, from lack of uten- 
sils and vessels, are simply pathetic. John Fox 
tells of a young preacher who stopped at a cabin 
in Georgia to pass the night. "His hostess, as 


a mark of unusual distinction, killed a chicken, 
and dressed It In a pan. She rinsed the pan 
and made up her dough In It. She rinsed It 
again and went out and used It for a milk-pail. 
She came in, rinsed it again, and went to the 
spring and brought It back full of water. She 
filled up the glasses on the table, and gave him 
the pan with the rest of the water in which to 
wash his hands. The woman was not a slattern ; 
it was the only utensil she had." 

Such poverty Is exceptional ; yet It is an all 
but universal rule that anything that cannot be 
cooked In a pot or fried In a pan must go beg- 
ging in the mountains. Once I helped my 
hostess to make kraut. We chopped up a hun- 
dred pounds of cabbage with no cutter but a 
tin coffee-can, holding this in the two hands and 
chopping downward with the edge. Many 
times I stopped to hammer the edge smooth on 
a round stick. Verily this Is the land of make- 
It-yourself-or-do-wlthout ! 

Yet, however destitute the mountain people 
may be, they are never abject. The mordant 
misery of hunger is borne with a sardonic grin. 
After a course of such diet as described above, 
a woman laughingly said to me, "I'm gittin' 
the dropsy — the meat Is all droppin' off my 
bones." During the campaign of 1904 a brother 


Democrat confided to me that "The people 
around hyur Is so pore that if free silver war 
shipped in by the carload, we-uns couldn't pay 
the freight." So, when a settlement Is dubbed 
Poverty, It Is with no suggestion of whining 
lament, but with the stoical good-humor that 
shows in Needmore, Poor Fork, Long Hungry, 
No Pone, and No Fat — all of them real names. 

Occasionally, as at "hog-klllln' time," the 
poorest live in abundance ; occasionally, as at 
Christmas, they will go on sprees. But, taking 
them the year through, the highlanders are a 
notably abstemious race. When a family is re- 
duced to dry corn bread and black coffee un- 
sweetened — so much and no more — it will joke 
about the lack of meat and vegetables. And, 
when there Is meat, two mountaineers engaged 
In hard outdoor work will consume less of It 
than a northern office-man would eat. Indeed, 
the heartiness with which "furrlners" stuff 
themselves Is a wonder and a merriment to the 
people of the hills. When a friend came to 
visit me, the landlady giggled an aside to her 
husband : "Git the almanick and see when that 
feller '11 full!" (as though she were bidding 
him look to see when the moon would be full). 

In truth, it is not so bad to be poor where 
everyone else Is in the same fix. One does not 


lose caste nor self-respect. He Is not tempted 
by a display of good things all around him, 
nor is he embittered by the haughtiness and ex- 
travagance of the rich. And, socially, the 
mountaineer is a democrat by nature : equal to 
any man, as all men are equal before him. 
Even though hunger be eating like a slow acid 
Into his vitals, he still will preserve a high spirit, 
a proud independence, that accepts no favor un- 
less It be offered in a neighborly way, as man 
to man. I have never seen a mountain beggar; 
never heard of one. 

Charity, or anything that smells to him like 
charity, is declined with patrician dignity or 
open scorn. In the last house up Hazel Creek 
dwelt "old man" Stiles. He had a large 
family, and was on the verge of destitution. 
His eldest son, a veteran from the Philippines, 
had been invalided home, and died there. Jack 
Coburn, in the kindness of his heart, sent away 
and got a blank form of application to the Gov- 
ernment for funeral expenses, to which the 
family was entitled by law. He filled It out, all 
but the signature, and rode away up to Stiles's 
to have the old man sign it. But Stiles per- 
emptorily refused to accept from the nation 
what was due his dead son. "I ain't that hard 
pushed yit," was his first and last word on the 


subject. This might seem to be the very per- 
versity of ignorance ; but it was, in fact, renun- 
ciation on a point of honor, and native pride re- 
fused to see the matter in any other light. 

The mountaineer, born and bred to Spartan 
self-denial, has a scorn of luxury, regarding its 
effeminacies with the same contempt as does the 
nomadic Arab. And any assumption of superi- 
ority he will resent with blow or sarcasm. A 
ragged hobbledehoy stood on the Vanderbilt 
grounds at Biltmore, mouth open but silent, 
watching a gardener at work. The latter, an- 
noyed by the boy's vacuous stare, spoke up 
sharply: "What do you want.?" Like a flash 
the lad retorted : "Oh, dad sent me down hyur 
to look at the place — said if I liked it, he mought 
buy it for me." 

Once, as an experiment, I took a backwoods- 
man from the Smokies to Knoxville, and put 
him up at a good hotel. Was he self-conscious, 
bashful .? Not a bit of it. When the waiter 
brought him a juicy tenderloin, he snapped : 
" I don't eat my meat raw ! " It was hard to find 
anything on the long menu that he would eat. 
On the street he held his head proudly erect, 
and regarded the crowd with an expression of 
"Tetch me gin ye dar!" Although the sur- 
roundings were as strange to him as a city of 


Mars would be to us, he showed neither concern 
nor approval, but rather a fine disdain, like that 
of Diogenes at the country fair: "Lord, how 
many things there be in this world of which 
Diogenes hath no need!" 

The poverty of the mountain people is naked, 
but high-minded and unashamed. To com- 
ment on it, as I have done, is taken as an imper- 
tinence. This is a fine trait, in its way, though 
rather hard on a descriptive writer whose mo- 
tives are ascribed to mere vulgarity and a taste 
for scandal-mongering. The people, of course, 
have no ghost of an idea that poverty may be 
more picturesque than luxury ; and they are 
quite as far from conceiving that a plain and 
friendly statement of their actual condition, 
published to the world, is the surest way to 
awaken the nation to consciousness of its duties 
toward a region that it has so long and so sin- 
gularly neglected. 

The worst enemies of the mountain people 
are those public men who, knowing the true 
state of things, yet conceal or deny the facts in 
order to salve a sore local pride, encourage the 
supine fatalism of "what must be will be," and 
so drug the highlanders back into their Rip Van 
Winkle sleep. 


DESPITE the low standard of living that 
prevails in the backwoods, the average 
mountain home is a happy one, as homes 
go. There is little worry and less fret. No- 
body's nerves are on edge. Our highlander 
views all exigencies of life with the calm forti- 
tude and tolerant good-humor of Bret Harte's 
southwesterner, "to whom cyclones, famine, 
drought, floods, pestilence and savages were 
things to be accepted, and whom disaster, if it 
did not stimulate, certainly did not appall." 

It is a patriarchal existence. The man of the 
house is lord. He takes no orders from any- 
body at home or abroad. Whether he shall 
work or visit or roam the woods with dog and 
gun is nobody's affair but his own. About 
family matters he consults with his wife, but in 
the end his word is law. If Madame be a bit 
shrewish he is likely to tolerate it as natural to 
the weaker vessel ; but if she should go too far 



he checks her with a curt " Shet up! " and the 
incident is closed. 

" The woman," as every wife is called, has her 
kingdom within the house, and her man seldom 
meddles with its administration. Now and 
then he may grumble " A woman 's allers findin' 
somethin' to do that a man can't see no sense 
in;" but, then, the Lord made women fussy over 
trifles — His ways are inscrutable — so why bother 
about it? 

The mountain farmer's wife is not only a 
household drudge, but a field-hand as well. 
She helps to plant, hoes corn, gathers fodder, 
sometimes even plows or splits rails. It is the 
commonest of sights for a woman to be awk- 
wardly hacking up firewood with a dull axe. 
When her man leaves home on a journey he is 
not likely to have laid in wood for the stove or 
hearth: so she and the children must drag from 
the hillsides whatever dead timber they can find. 

Outside the tow^ns no hat is lifted to maid or 
wife. A swain would consider it belittled his 
dignity. At table, if women be seated at all, the 
dishes are passed first to the men; but generally 
the wife stands by and serves. There is no con- 
scious discourtesy in such customs; but they be- 
token an indifference to woman's weakness, a 
disregard for her finer nature, a denial of her 


proper rank, that are real and deep-seated in 
the mountaineer. To him she is little more 
than a sort of superior domestic animal. The 
chivalric regard for women that characterized 
our pioneers of the Far West is altogether lack- 
ing in the habits of the backwoodsman of Appa- 

And yet it is seldom that a highland woman 
complains of her lot. She knows no other. 
From aboriginal times the men of her race have 
been warriors, hunters, herdsmen, clearers of 
forests, and their women have toiled in the fields. 
Indeed she would scarce respect her husband if 
he did not lord it over her and cast upon her 
the menial tasks. It is " manners " for a woman 
to drudge and obey. All respectable wives do 
that. And they stay at home where they be- 
long, never visiting or going anywhere without 
first asking their husband's consent. 

I am satisfied that there is less bickering in 
mountain households than in the most advanced 
society of Christendom. Certainly there are 
fewer divorces in proportion to the marriages. 
This is not by grace of any uncommon regard 
for the seventh commandment, but rather from 
a more tolerant attitude of mind. 

Mountain women marry early, many of them 
at fourteen or fifteen, and nearly all before they 


are twenty. Large families are the rule, seven 
to ten children being considered normal, and 
fifteen is not an uncommon number; but the in- 
fant mortality is high. 

The children have fevs^ toys other than rag 
dolls, broken bits of crockery for " play-pur- 
ties," and such " ridey-hosses " and so forth as 
they make for themselves. They play few 
games, but rather frisk about like young colts 
without aim or method. Every mountain child 
has at least one dog for a playfellow, and some- 
times a pet pig is equally familiar. In many 
districts there is not enough level land for a 
ballground. A prime amusement of the small 
boys is "rocking" (throwing stones at marks 
or at each other), in which rather doubtful pas- 
time they become singularly expert. 

To encourage a child to do chores about the 
house and stable, he may be promised a pig of 
his own the next time a sow litters. To know 
when to look for the pigs an expedient is prac- 
ticed that I never heard of elsewhere: the child 
bores a small hole at the base of his thumbnail. 
I was assured by a mountain preacher that the 
hole " will grow out to the edge of the nail in 
three months and twenty-four days " — the 
period, he said, of a sow's gestation (in reality 
the average term is about three months). 


Most mountaineers are indulgent, super-in- 
dulgent parents. The oft-heard threat " I'll 
w'ar ye out with a hick'ry! " is seldom carried 
out. The boys, especially, grow up with little 
restraint beyond their own natural sense of filial 
duty. Little children are allowed to eat and 
drink anything they want — green fruit, adul- 
terated candy, fresh cider, no matter what — to 
the limit of repletion; and fatal consequences 
are not rare. I have observed the very perver- 
sity of license allowed children, similar to what 
Julian Ralph tells of a man on Bullskin Creek, 
who, explaining why his child died, said that 
'' No one couldn't make her take no medicine; 
she just wouldn't take it; she was a Baker 
through and through, and you never could make 
a Baker do nothin' he didn't want to! " 

The saddest spectacle in the mountains Is the 
tiny burial-ground, without a headstone or head- 
board in It, all overgrown with weeds, and per- 
haps unfenced, with cattle grazing over the low 
mounds or sunken graves. The spot seems 
never to be visited between interments. I have 
remarked elsewhere that most mountaineers are 
singularly callous in the presence of serious in- 
jury or death. They show a no less remarkable 
lack of reverence for the dead. Nothing on 
earth can be more poignantly lonesome than one 


of these mountain burial-places, nothing so 
mutely evident of neglect. 

Funeral services are extremely simple. In 
the backwoods, where lumber is scarce, a coffin 
will be knocked together from rough planks 
taken from someone's loft, or out of puncheons 
hewn from the green trees. It is slung on poles 
and carried like a litter. The only exercises 
at the grave are singing and praying; and some- 
times even those are omitted, as in case no 
preacher can be summoned in time. 

In all back settlements that I have visited, 
from Kentucky southward, there is a strange 
custom as to the funeral sermon, that seems to 
have no analogue elsewhere. It is not preached 
until long after the interment, maybe a year or 
several years. In some districts the practice is 
to hold joint services, at the same time and place, 
for all in the neighborhood who died within the 
year. The time chosen will be after the crops 
are gathered, so that everybody can attend. In 
other places a husband's funeral sermon is post- 
poned until his wife dies, or vice versa, though 
the interval may be many years. These collec- 
tive funeral services last two or three days, and 
are attended by hundreds of people, like a camp- 

Strange scenes sometimes are witnessed at the 


graveside, prompted perhaps by weird super- 
stitions. At one of our burials, which was at- 
tended by more than the usual retinue of kins- 
folk, there were present two mothers who bore 
each other the deadliest hate that women know. 
Each had a child at her breast. When the clods 
fell, they silently exchanged babies long enough 
for each to suckle her rival's child. Was it a 
reconciliation cemented by the very life of their 
blood? Or was it a charm to keep off evil 
spirits? No one could (or would) explain it to 

Weddings never are celebrated in church, but 
at the home of the bride, and are jolly occasions, 
of course. Often the young men, stimulated 
with more or less *' moonshine," add the liter- 
ally stunning compliment of a shivaree. 

The mountaineers have a native fondness for 
music and dancing, which, with the shouting- 
spells of their revivals, are the only outlets for 
those powerful emotions which otherwise they 
studiously conceal. The harmony of " part 
singing " is unknown in the back districts, where 
men and women both sing in a jerky treble. 
Most of their music is in the weird, plaintive 
minor key that seems spontaneous with primitive 
people throughout the world. Not only the tone, 
but the sentiment of their hymns and ballads is 

I'hoto by J. O. Morrt-ll 

"Come ill and Rest." 


usually of a melancholy nature, expressing the 
wrath of God and the doom of sinners, or the 
luckless adventures of wild blades and of maid- 
ens all forlorn. A highlandcr might well say, 
with the clown in A JVinters Tale, " I love a 
ballad but even too well; if it be doleful mat- 
ter, merrily set down, or a very pleasant thing 
indeed, and sung lamentably." 

But where banjo and fiddle enter, the vapors 
vanish. Up strike The Fox Chase, Shady 
Grove, Gamblin' man, Sourwood Mountain, 
and knees are limbered, and merry voices rise. — 

Call up your dog, O call up your dog! 

Call up your dog! 

Call up your dog! 
Let 's a-go huntin' to ketch a groundhog. 

Rang tang a-whaddle linky day! 

MHierever the church has not put Its ban on 
" twistifications " the country dance is the chief 
amusement of young and old. I have never suc- 
ceeded in memorizing the queer " calls " at these 
dances, in proper order, and so take the liberty 
of quoting from Mr. Haney's Mountain People 
of Kentucky. — 

"Eight hands up and go to the left; half and back; 
corners turn ; partners sash-i-ate. First four, forwards and 
back; forward again and cross over; forward and back and 


home you go. Gents stand and ladies swing in the center; 
own partners and half sash-i-ate. 

"Eight hands and gone again; half and back; partners 
by the right and opposite by the left — sash-i-ate. Right 
hands across and howdy do? Left and back and how are 
you? Opposite partners, half sash-i-ate and go to the 
next (and so on for each couple). 

"All hands up and go to the left. Hit the floor. Cor- 
ners turn and sash-i-ate. First couple cage the bird with 
three arms around. Bird hop out and hoot-owl in; three 
arms around and hootin' agin. Swing and circle four, 
ladies change and gents the same; right and left; the shoo- 
fly swing (and so on for each couple)." 

In homes where dancing is not permitted, and 
often in others, " play-parties " are held, at 
which social games are practiced with childlike 
abandon: Roll the Platter, Weavilly Wheat, 
Needle's Eye, We Fish Who Bite, Grin an' Go 
'Foot, Swing the Cymblin, Skip t' m' Lou (pro- 
nounced " Skip-tum a-loo ") and many others 
of a rollicking, half-dancing nature. 

Round the house; skip t' m' Lou, my darlin'. 
Steal my partner and I'll steal again; skip (etc.). 
Take her and go with her — I don't care; skip (etc.). 
I can get another as pretty as you; skip (etc.), 
Pretty as a red-bird, and prettier too; skip (etc.). 

A substitute for the church fair is the " poke- 
supper," at which dainty pokes (bags) of cake 


and other home-made delicacies are auctioned 
off to the highest bidder. Whoever bids-in a 
poke is entitled to eat with the girl who pre- 
pared it, and escort her home. The rivalry 
excited among the mountain swains by such art- 
ful lures may be judged from the fact that, in 
a neighborhood where a man's work brings only 
a dollar a day, a pretty girl's poke may be bid 
up to ten, twenty, or even fifty dollars. 

As a rule, the only holidays observed In the 
mountains, outside the tov/ns, are Christmas and 
New Year's. Christmas is celebrated after the 
southern fashion, which seems bizarre indeed 
to one witnessing it for the first time. The boys 
and men, having no firecrackers (which they 
would disdain, anyway), go about shooting re- 
volvers and drinking to the limit of capacity or 
supply. Blank cartridges are never used in this 
uproarious jollification, and the courses of the 
bullets are left to chance, so that discreet people 
keep their noses indoors. Christmas is a day of 
license, of general indulgence, it being tacitly 
assumed that punishment is remitted for any or- 
dinary sins of the flesh that may be committed 
on that day. There is no church festivity, nor 
are Christmas trees ever set up. Few mountain 
children hang up their stockings, and many have 
never heard of Santa Claus. 


New Year's Day is celebrated with whatever 
effervescence remains from Christmas, and in 
the same manner; but generally it is a feeble 
reminder, as the liquid stimulus has run short 
and there are many sore heads in the neighbor- 

Most of the mountain preachers nowadays de- 
nounce dances and " play-parties " as sinful di- 
versions, though their real objection seems to 
be that such gatherings are counter-attractions 
that thin out the religious ones. Be that as it 
may, they certainly have put a damper on frol- 
ics, so that in very many mountain settlements 
" goin' to meetin' " is recognized primarily as a 
social function and affords almost the only 
chance for recreation in which family can join 
family without restraint. 

Meetings are held in the log schoolhouse. 
The congregation ranges itself, men on one side, 
women on the other, on rude benches that some- 
times have no backs. Everybody goes. If one 
judged from attendance he would rate our high- 
landers as the most religious people in America. 
This impression is strengthened, in a stranger, 
by the grave and astoundingly patient attention 
that is given an illiterate or nearly illiterate 
minister while he holds forth for two or three 
mortal hours on the beauties of predestination. 


free-will, foreordlnatlon, immersion, foot- 
washing, or on the delinquencies of " them 
acorn-fed critters that has gone New Light over 
in Cope's Cove." 

After an al fresco lunch, everybody doggedly 
returns to hear another circuit-rider expound 
and denounce at the top of his voice until late 
afternoon — as long as " the spirit lasts " and he 
has " good wind." When he warms up, he 
throws in a gasping ah or uh at short intervals, 
which constitutes the '' holy tone." Doctor 
MacClintock gives this example: "Oh, breth- 
ren, repent ye, and repent ye of your sins, ah; 
fer if ye don't, ah, the Lord, ah, he will grab 
yer by the seat of yer pants, ah, and hold yer 
over hell fire till ye holler like a coon! " 

During these services there is a good deal of 
running in and out by the men and boys, most 
of whom gradually congregate on the outside 
to whittle, gossip, drive bargains, and debate 
among themselves some point of dogma that is 
too good to keep still about. 

Nearly all of our highlanders, from youth 
upward, show an amazing fondness for theo- 
logical dispute. This consists mainly in cap- 
ping texts, instead of reasoning, with the single- 
minded purpose of confusing or downing an 
opponent. Into this battle of memories rather 


than of wits the most worthless scapegrace will 
enter with keen gusto and perfect seriousness. 
I have known two or three hundred mountain 
lumber-jacks, hard-swearing and hard-drinking 
tough-as-they-make-'ems, to be whetted to a 
fighting edge over the rocky problem " Was 
Saul damned?" (Can a suicide enter the 
kingdom of heaven?) 

The mountaineers are intensely, universally 
Protestant. You will seldom find a backwoods- 
man who knows what a Roman Catholic is. 
As John Fox says, " He is the only man in the 
world whom the Catholic Church has made 
little or no effort to proselyte. Dislike of Epis- 
copalianism is still strong among people who 
do not know, or pretend not to know, what the 
word means. ' Any Episcopalians around 
here?' asked a clergyman at a mountain cabin. 
* I don't know,' said the old woman. ' Jim's got 
the skins of a lot o' varmints up in the loft. 
Mebbe you can find one up thar.' " 

The first settlers of Appalachia mainly were 
Presbyterians, as became Scotch-Irishmen, but 
they fell away from that faith, partly because 
the wilderness was too poor to support a regu- 
lar ministry, and partly because it was too dem- 
ocratic for Calvinism with its supreme author- 
ity of the clergy. This much of seventeenth 


century Calvinism the mountaineer retains: a 
passion for hair-splitting argument over points 
of doctrine, and the cocksure intolerance of 
John Knox; but the ancestral creed itself has 
been forgotten. 

The circuit-rider, whether Methodist or Bap- 
tist, found here a field ripe for his harvest. 
Being himself self-supporting and unassuming, 
he easily won the confidence of the people. He 
preached a highly emotional religion that 
worked his audience into the ecstasy that all 
primitive people love. And he introduced a 
mighty agent of evangelization among outdoor 
folk when he started the camp-meeting. 

The season for camp-meetings is from mid- 
August to October. The festival may last a 
week in one place. It is a jubilee-week to the 
work-worn and home-chained women, their 
only diversion from a year of unspeakably 
monotonous toil. And for the young folks, it 
is their theater, their circus, their county fair. 
(I say this with no disrespect: " big-meetin' 
time " is a gala week, if there be any such thing 
at all in the mountains — its attractiveness is full 
as much secular as spiritual to the great body 
of the people.) 

It is a camp by day only, or up to closing 
time. No mountaineer owns a tent. Preachers 


and exhorters are housed nearby, and visitors 
from all the country scatter about with their 
friends, or sleep in the open, cooking their meals 
by the wayside. 

In these backwoods revival meetings we can 
witness to-day the weird phenomena of ungov- 
ernable shouting, ecstasy, bodily contortions, 
trance, catalepsy, and other results of hypnotic 
suggestion and the contagious one-mindedness 
of an overwrought crowd. This is called " tak- 
ing a big through," and is regarded as the mad- 
ness of supernatural joy. It is a mild form of 
that extraordinary frenzy which swept the Ken- 
tucky settlements in 1800, when thousands of 
men and women at the camp-meetings fell vic- 
tims to " the jerks," " barking exercises," erotic 
vagaries, physical wreckage, or insanity, to 
which the frenzy led. 

Many mountaineers are easily carried away 
by new doctrines extravagantly presented. Re- 
ligious mania is taken for inspiration by the 
superstitious who are looking for " signs and 
wonders." At one time Mormon prophets 
lured women from the backwoods of western 
Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Later there 
was a similar exodus of people to the Castel- 
lites, a sect of whom it was commonly remarked 
that " everybody who joins the Castellites goes 



crazy.'^ In our day the same may be said of 
the Holy Rollers and Holiness People. 

In a feud town of eastern Kentucky, not long 
ago, I saw two Holiness exhorters prancing be- 
fore a solemnly attentive crowd in the court- 
house square, one of them shouting and exhib- 
iting the " holy laugh," while the other pointed 
to the Cumberland River and cried, " I don't 
say if I had the faith, I say I have the faith, to 
walk over that river dry-shod!" I scanned the 
crowd, and saw nothing but belief, or willing- 
ness to believe, on any countenance. Of course, 
most mountaineers are more intelligent than 
that; but few of them are free from supersti- 
tions of one kind or other. There are to-day 
many believers in witchcraft among them 
(though none own it to any but their intimates) 
and nearly everybody in the hills has faith in 

The mountain clergy, as a general rule, are 
hostile to " book larnin'," for " there ain't no 
Holy Ghost in it." One of them who had spent 
three months at a theological school told Presi- 
dent Frost, " Yes, the seminary is a good place 
ter go and git rested up, but 'tain't worth while 
fer me ter go thar no more 's long as I've got 
good wind." 

It used to amuse me to explain how I knew 


that the earth was a sphere; but one day, when 
I was busy, a tiresome old preacher put the ever- 
lasting question to me: "Do you believe the 
yearth is round? " An impish perversity seized 
me and I answered, " No — all blamed hum- 
bug! " " Amen! " cried my delighted catechist, 
" I knowed in reason you had more sense." 

In general the religion of the mountaineers 
has little influence on every-day behavior, little 
to do with the moral law. Salvation is by faith 
alone, and not by works. Sometimes a man is 
"churched" for breaking the Sabbath, "cuss- 
in'," " tale-bearin' "; but sins of the flesh are 
rarely punished, being regarded as amiable 
frailties of mankind. It should be understood 
that the mountaineer's morals are " all tail- 
first," like those of Alan Breck in Stevenson's 

One of our old-timers nonchalantly admitted 
in court that he and a preacher had marked a 
false corner-tree which figured in an important 
land suit. On cross-examination he was asked: 

" You admit that you and Preacher X^ — 
forged that corner-tree? Didn't you give 
Preacher X a good character, in your tes- 
timony? Do you consider it consistent with his 
profession as a minister of the Gospel to forge 


" Aw," replied the witness, " religion ain't 
got nothin' to do with corner-trees!" 

John Fox relates that, " A feud leader who 
had about exterminated the opposing faction, 
and had made a good fortune for a mountaineer 
while doing it, for he kept his men busy getting 
out timber when they weren't fighting, said to 
me in all seriousness: 

" ' I have triumphed agin my enemies time 
and time agin. The Lord's on my side, and I 
gits a better and better Christian ever' year.' 

" A preacher, riding down a ravine, came 
upon an old mountaineer hiding in the bushes 
with his rifle. 

" 'What are you doing there, my friend?' 

"'Ride on, stranger,' was the easy answer. 
' I'm a-waitin' fer Jim Johnson, and with the 
help of the Lawd I'm goin' to blow his damn 
head off.' " 

But let us never lose sight of the fact that 
these people, intellectually, are not living in our 
age. To judge them fairly we must go back and 
get a medieval point of view, which, by the 
way, persisted in Europe and America until 
well into the Georgian period. If history be 
too dry, read Stevenson's Kidnapped, and espe- 
cially its sequel David Balfour, to learn what 
that viewpoint was. The parallel is so close — ■ 


eighteenth century Britain and twentieth cen- 
tury Appalachia — that here we walk the same 
paths with Alan and David, the Edinboro' law- 
sharks, Katriona and Lady Allardyce. The 
only difference of moment is that we have no 

As for the morals of our highlanders, they are 
precisely what any well-read person would ex- 
pect after taking their belatedness into consid- 
eration. In speech and conduct, when at ease 
among themselves, they are frank, old-fashioned 
Englishmen and Scots, such as Fielding and 
Smollet and Pepys and Burns have shown us 
to the life. Their manners are boorish, of 
course, judged by a feminized modern standard, 
and their home conversation is as coarse as the 
mixed-company speeches in Shakespeare's com- 
edies or the offhand pleasantries of Good Queen 

But what is refinement? What is morality? 

" I don't mind," said the Beloved Vagabond, 
'' I don't mind the frank dungheap outside a 
German peasant's kitchen window; but what I 
loathe and abominate is the dungheap hidden 
beneath Hedwige's draper papa's parlor floor." 
And we do well to consider that fine remark 
by Sir Oliver Lodge: "Vice Is reversion to a 
lower type after perception of a higher." 


I have seen the worst as well as the best of 
Appalachia. There are " places on Sand Moun- 
tain " — scores of them — where unspeakable 
orgies prevail at times. But I know that be- 
tween these two extremes the great mass of the 
mountain people are very like persons of similar 
station elsewhere, just human, with human frail- 
ties, only a little more honest, I think, in owning 
them. And even in the tenebra of far-back 
coves, where conditions exist as gross as any- 
thing to be found in the wynds and closes of 
our great cities, there Is this blessed difference: 
that these half-wild creatures have not been 
hoplessly submerged, have not been driven into 
desperate war against society. The worst of 
them, still have good traits, strong characters, 
something responsive to decent treatment. They 
are kind-hearted, loyal to their friends, quick to 
help anyone In distress. They know nothing of 
civilization. They are simply the unstarted — 
and their thews are sound. 



NE day I handed a volume of John Fox's 
stories to a neighbor and asked him to 
read it, being curious to learn how those 
vivid pictures of mountain life would impress 
one who was born and bred in the same atmos- 
phere. He scanned a few lines of the dialogue, 
then suddenly stared at me in amazement. 

"What's the matter with it?" I asked, won- 
dering what he could have found to startle him 
at the very beginning of a story. 

" Why, that feller dont know how to spell!" 

Gravely I explained that dialect must be 
spelled as it is pronounced, so far as possible, 
or the life and savor of it would be lost. But 
it was of no use. My friend was outraged. 
" That tale-teller then is jest makin' fun of the 
mountain people by misspellin' our talk. You 
educated folks don't spell your own words the 
way you say them." 

A most palpable hit; and it gave me a new 

point of view. 



To the mountaineers themselves their speech 
is natural and proper, of course, and when they 
see it bared to the spotlight, all eyes drawn to- 
ward it by an orthography that is as odd to 
them as it is to us, they are stirred to wrath, 
just as we would be if our conversation were 
reported by some Josh Billings or Artemas 

The curse of dialect writing is elision. Still, 
no one can write it without using the apostrophe 
more than he likes to; for our highland speech 
is excessively clipped. " I'm comin' d'reck'ly " 
has a quaintness that should not be lost. We 
cannot visualize the shambling but eager moun- 
taineer with a sample of ore in his hand unless 
the writer reports him faithfully: "Wisht 
you'd 'zamine this rock fer me — I heern tell 
you was one 0' them 'sperts." 

Although the hillsmen save some breath In 
this way, they waste a good deal by inserting 
sounds where they do not belong. Sometimes 
It is only an added consonant: gyarden, acrost, 
corkus (caucus) ; sometimes a syllable: loaf- 
erer, musicianer, suddenty. Occasionally a 
word is both added to and clipped from, as 
cyarn (carrion). They are fond of grace syl- 
lables: "I gotta me a deck o' cyards." 
*' There ain't nary bitty sense In it." 


More Interesting are substitutions of one 
sound for another. In mountain dialect all 
vowels may be Interchanged with others. Va- 
rious sounds of a are confused with e, as hed 
(had), kem (came), keerful; or with i, grit 
(grate), rifle (raffle) ; with o, pomper, toper 
(taper), wrop; or with u, fur, ruther. So any 
other vowel may serve In place of e: sarve, 
chlst, upsot, turrlble. Any other may displace 
i: arn (Iron), eetch, hender, whope or whup. 
The sounds are more stable, but we have 
crap (crop), yan, clus, and many similar vari- 
ants. Any other vowel may do for u : braysh 
or bresh (brush), shet, sich, shore (sure). 

Mountaineers have peculiar difficulty with 
diphthongs: haar (hair), cheer (chair), brile, 
and a host of others. The word coll Is vari- 
ously pronounced quUe, querl or quorl. 

Substitution of consonants Is not so common 
as of vowels, but most hlllsmen say nabel 
(navel), ballet (ballad), Babtis', rench or 
rlnch, brickie (brittle), and many say atter or 
arter, jue (due), tejus, vasclnator (fascinator — 
a woman's scarf). They never drop h, nor 
substitute anything for It. 

The word woman has suffered some strange 
sea-changes. Most mountaineers pronounce It 
correctly, but some drop the w ('oman), others 


Photo by Paul Fink 

The Alum Cave, Great Smoky Mountains. 


add an r (womern and wimmern), while in 
Michell County, North Carolina, we hear the 
extraordinary forms ummern and dummern 
(" La, look at all the dummerunses a-comin'! ") 

On the other hand, some words that most 
Americans mispronounce are always sounded 
correctly in the southern highlands, as dew and 
new (never doo, noo). Creek is always given 
its true ee sound, never crick. Nare (as we spell 
it in dialect stories) is simply the right pronun- 
ciation of ne'er, and nary is ne'er a, with the a 
turned into a short i sound. 

It should be understood that the dialect 
varies a good deal from place to place, and, 
even in the same neighborhood, we rarely hear 
all families speaking it alike. Outlanders who 
essay to write it are prone to err by making 
their characters speak it too consistently. It is 
only in the backwoods, or among old people 
and the penned-at-home women, that the dia- 
lect is used with any integrity. In railroad 
towns we hear little of it, and farmers who 
trade in those towns adapt their speech some- 
what to the company they may be in. The same 
man, at different times, may say can't and cain't, 
set and sot, jest and jes' and jist, atter and arter 
or after, seed and seen, here and hyur and hyar, 
heerd and heern or heard, sich and sech, took 


and tuk — there is no uniformity about it. An 
unconscious sense of euphony seems to govern i 
the choice of hit or it, there or thar. ! 

Since the Appalachian people have a marked 
Scotch-Irish strain, we w^ould expect their speech 
to show a strong Scotch influence. So far as 
vocabulary is concerned, there is really little of 
it. A few words, caigy (cadgy), coggled, fer« 
nent, gin for if, needcessity, trollop, almost ex- 
haust the list of distinct Scotticisms. The 
Scotch-Irish, as we call them, were mainly 
Ulstermen, and the Ulster dialect of to-day 
bears little analogy to that of Appalachia. 

Scotch influence does appear, however, in one 
vital characteristic of the pronunciation: with 
few exceptions our highlanders sound r dis- 
tinctly wherever it occurs, though they never 
trill it. In the British Isles this constant sound- 
ing of r in all positions is peculiar, I think, to 
Scotland, Ireland, and a few small districts in 
the northern border counties of England. With 
us it is general practice outside of New Eng- 
land and those parts of the southern lowlands 
that had no flood of Celtic immigration in the 
eighteenth century. I have never heard a Caro- 
lina mountaineer say niggah or No'th Ca'lina, 
though in the last word the syllable ro is often 


In some mountain districts we hear do' 
(door), flo', mo', yo', co'te, sca'ce (long a), 
pusson; but such skipping of the r is common 
only where lowland influence has crept in. 
Much oftener the r is dropped from dare, first, 
girl, horse, nurse, parcel, worth (dast, fust, gal, 
hoss, nuss, passel, wuth). By way of compensa- 
tion the hillsmen sometimes insert a euphonic r 
where it has no business; just as many New 
Englanders say, "The idear of it!" 

Throughout Appalachia such words as last, 
past, advantage, are pronounced with the same 
vowel sound as is heard in man. This helps to 
delimit the people, classifying them with Penn- 
sylvanians and Westerners: a linguistic group- 
ing that will prove significant when we come to 
study the origin and history of this isolated race. 

An editor who had made one or two short 
trips into the mountains once wrote me that he 
thought the average mountaineer's vocabulary 
did not exceed three hundred words. This may 
be a natural inference if one spends but a few 
weeks among these people and sees them only 
under the prosaic conditions of workaday life. 
But gain their intimacy and you shall find that 
even the illiterates among them have a range of 
expression that is truly remarkable. I have my- 
self taken down from the lips of Carolina 


mountaineers some eight hundred dialectical or 
obsolete words, to say nothing of the much 
greater number of standard English terms that 
they command. 

Seldom is a " hill-billy " at a loss for a word. 
Lacking other means of expression, there will 
come '' spang " from his mouth a coinage of his 
own. Instantly he will create (always from 
English roots, of course) new words by com- 
bination, or by turning nouns into verbs or 
otherwise interchanging the parts of speech. 

Crudity or deficiency of the verb character- 
izes the speech of all primitive peoples. In 
mountain vernacular many words that serve as 
verbs are only nouns of action, or adjectives, or 
even adverbs. " That bear '11 meat me a 
month." " They churched Pitt for tale-bearin'." 
" Granny kept faultin' us all day." " Are ye 
fixin' to go squirrelin'? " "Sis blouses her 
waist a-purpose to carry a pistol." " My boy 
Jesse book-kept for the camp." " I disgust bad 
liquor." " This poke salat eats good." " I 
ain't goin' to bed it no longer" (lie abed). 
" We can muscle this log up." " I w^ouldn't 
pleasure them enough to say it." " Josh ain't 
much on sweet-heartin'." " I don't confidence 
them dogs much." " The creek away up thar 
turkey-tails out into numerous leetle forks." 


A verb will be coined from an adverb : " We 
better git some wood, bettern we? " Or from 
an adjective: "Much that dog and see won't 
he come along " (pet him, make much of him). 
" I didn't do nary thing to contrary her." 
" Baby, that onion '11 strong ye! " " Little Jim- 
my fell down and benastied himself to beat the 

Conversely, nouns are created from verbs. 
" Hit don't make no differ." " I didn't hear 
no give-out at meetin' " (announcement). 
" You can git ye one more gittin' o' wood up 
thar." " That Nantahala is a master shut-in, 
jest a plumb gorge." Or from an adjective: 
"Them bugs— the little old hatefuls!" "If 
anybody wanted a history of this county for 
fifty years he'd git a lavish of it by reading that 
mine-suit testimony." Or from an adverb: 
"Nance tuk the biggest through at meetin'!" 
(shouting spell). An old lady quoted to me 
in a plaintive quaver: 

" It matters not, so I've been told, 
Where the body goes when the heart grows cold; 

" But," she added, " a person has a rather about 
where he'd be put." 

In mountain vernacular the Old English 
strong past tense still lives in begun, drunk, 


holped, rung, shrunk, sprung, stunk, sung, 
sunk, swum. Holp is used both as preterite and 
as infinitive: the o is long, and the / distinctly 
sounded by most of the people, but elided by 
such as drop it from almost, already, self (the 
/ is elided from help by many who use that 
form of the verb). 

Examples of a strong preterite with dialec- 
tical change of the vowel are bruk, brung, drap 
or drapped, drug, friz, roke or ruck (raked), 
saunt (sent), shet, shuck (shook), whoped 
(long o). The variant whupped is a Scotti- 
cism. Whope is sometimes used in the present 
tense, but whup is more common. By some the 
vowel of whup is sounded like oo in book (Mr. 
Fox writes " whoop," whicli, I presume, he in- 
tends for that sound). 

In many cases a weak preterite supplants the 
proper strong one: div, driv, fit, gi'n or give, 
rid, riv, rlz, writ, done, run, seen or seed, 
blowed, crowed, drawed, growed, knowed, 
th rowed. 

There are many corrupt forms of the verb, 
such as gwine for gone or going, mought 
(mowt) for might, dim, het, ort or orter, wed 
(weeded), war (was or were — the a as In far), 
shun (shone), cotch (in all tenses) or cotched, 
fotch or fotched, horned, hurted, dremp. 


Peculiar adjectives are formed from verbs. 
" Chair-bottoming is easy settin'-down work." 
" When my youngest was a leetle set-along 
child" (interpreted as "scttin' along the 
floor"). "That Thunderhead is the torn- 
downdest place!" "Them's the travellinest 
bosses ever I seed." " She's the workinest 
woman!" "Jim is the disablest one o' the 
fam'ly." " Damn this fotch-on kraut that 
comes In tin cans!" 

A verb may serve as an adverb: " If I'd a- 
been thoughted enough." An adverb may be 
used as an adjective : " I hope the folks with 
you is gaily" (well). An adjective can serve 
as an adverb: "He laughed master." Some- 
times a conjunction is employed as a preposi- 
tion: "We have oblige to take care on him." 

These are not mere blunders of individual 
illiterates, but usages common throughout the 
mountains, and hence real dialect. 

The ancient syllabic plural is preserved in 
beasties (horses), nestles, posties, trousies (these 
are not diminutives), and in that strange word 
dummerunses that I cited before. 

Pleonasms are abundant. "I done done it" 
(have done it or did do it). " Durin' the 
while." " In this day and time." " I thought 
it would surely, undoubtedly turn cold." " A 


small, little bitty hole." " Jane's a tol'able big, 
large, fleshy woman." " I ginerally, usually 
take a dram mornin's." " These ridges is 
might' nigh straight up and down, and, as the 
feller said, perpendic'lar." 

Everywhere in the mountains we hear of 
biscuit-bread, ham-meat, rifle-gun, rock-clift, 
ridin'-critter, cow-brute, man-person, women- 
folks, preacher-man, granny-woman and neigh- 
bor-people. In this category belong the fa- 
mous double-barreled pronouns: we-all and 
you-all in Kentucky, we-uns and you-uns in 
Carolina and Tennessee. (I have even heard 
such locution as this: ''Let's we-uns all go 
over to youerunses house.") Such usages are 
regarded generally as mere barbarisms, and so 
they are in English, but Miss Murfree cites 
correlatives in the Romance languages: French 
nous autres, Italian noi altri, Spanish nosotros. 

The mountaineers have some queer ways of 
intensifying expression. " I'd tell a man," with 
the stress as here indicated, is simply a strong 
affirmative. " We had one more time " means 
a rousing good time. '' P'int-blank " is a super- 
lative or an epithet: "We jist p'int-blank got 
it to do." " Well, p'int-blank, if they ever come 
back again, I'll move!" 

A double negative is so common that it may 


be crowded into a single word: " I did it the 
unthoughtless of anything I ever done in my 
life." Triple negatives are easy: " I ain't got 
nary none." A mountaineer can accomplish 
the quadruple: "That boy ain't never done 
nothin' nohow." Yea, even the quintuple: "I 
ain't never seen no men-folks of no kind do no 

On the other hand, the veriest illiterates often 
startle a stranger by glib use of some word that 
most of us picked up in school or seldom use 
informally. " I can make a hunderd pound o' 
pork outen that hog — tutor it jist right." 
"Them clouds denote rain." " She's so dilitary!" 
"They stood thar and caviled about it." " That 
exceeds the measure." " Old Tom is blind, but 
he can discern when the sun is shinin'." " Jerry 
proffered to fix the gun for me." I had sup- 
posed that the words cuckold and moon-calf 
had none but literary usage in America, but we 
often hear them in the mountains, cuckold being 
employed both as verb and as noun, and moon- 
calf in its baldly literal sense that would make 
Prospero's taunt to Caliban a superlative insult. 

Our highlander often speaks in Elizabethan 
or Chaucerian or even pre-Chaucerian terms. 
His pronoun hit antedates English itself, being 
the Anglo-Saxon neuter of he. Ey God, a fa- 


vorite expletive, is the original of egad, and 
goes back of Chaucer. Ax for ask and kag 
for keg were the primitive and legitimate 
forms, which we trace as far as the time of 
Layamon. When the mountain boy challenges 
his mate: "I dar ye — I ain't af eared!" his 
verb and participle are of the same ancient and 
sterling rank. Afore, atwixt, awar, heap o' 
folks, peart, up and done it, usen for used, all 
these everyday expressions of the backwoods 
were contemporary with the Canterbury Tales. 

A man said to me of three of our acquaint- 
ances: "There's been a fray on the river — I 
don't know how the fraction begun, but Os 
feathered into Dan and Phil, feedin' them 
lead." He meant fray in its original sense of 
deadly combat, as was fitting where two men 
were killed. Fraction for rupture is an archaic 
word, rare in literature, though we find it in 
Troilus and Cressida. " Feathered into them! " 
Where else can we hear to-day a phrase that 
passed out of standard English when " villain- 
ous saltpetre " supplanted the long-bow? It 
means to bury an arrow up to the feather, as 
when the old chronicler Harrison says, " An 
other arrow should haiie beene fethered in his 

Our schoolmaster, composing a form of oath 


for the new mail-carrier, remarked : " Let me 
study this thing over; then I can edzact it" — a 
verb so rare and obsolete that we find it in no 
American dictionary, but only in Murray. 

A remarkable word, common in the Smokies, 
is dauncy, defined for me as " mincy about 
eating," which is to say fastidious, over-nice. 
Dauncy probably is a variant of daunch, of 
which the Oxford New English Dictionary cites 
but one example, from the Townley Mysteries 
of circa 1460. 

A queer term used by Carolina mountaineers, 
without the faintest notion of its origin, is 
doney (long 0) or doney-gal, meaning a sweet- 
heart. Its history is unique. British sailors of 
the olden time brought it to England from 
Spanish or Italian ports. Doney is simply 
Jona or donna a trifle anglicized in pronuncia- 
tion. Odd, though, that it should be preserved 
in America by none but backwoodsmen whose 
ancestors for two centuries never saw the tides! 

In the vocabulary of the mountaineers I have 
detected only three words of directly foreign 
origin. Doney is one. Another is kraut, which 
is the sole contribution to highland speech of 
those numerous Germans (mostly Pennsylvania 
Dutch) who joined the first settlers in this re- 
gion, and whose descendants, under wondrously 


anglicized names, form to-day a considerable 
element of the highland population. The third 
is sashiate (French chasse), used in calling 
figures at the country dances. 

There is something intrinsically, stubbornly 
English in the nature of the mountaineer: he 
will assimilate nothing foreign. In the 
Smokies the Eastern Band of Cherokees still 
holds its ancient capital on the Okona Lufty 
River, and the whites mingle freely with these 
redskins, bearing them no such despite as they 
do negroes, but eating at the same table and 
admitting Indians to the white compartment of 
a Jim Crow car. Yet the mountain dialect con- 
tains not one word of Cherokee origin, albeit . 
many of the whites can speak a little Cherokee. % 

In our county some Indians always appear at 
each term of court, and an interpreter must be 
engaged. He never goes by that name, but by 
the obsolete title linkister or link'ster, by some 

Many other old-fashioned terms are pre- 
served in Appalachia that sound delightfully 
quaint to strangers who never met them outside 
of books. A married woman is not addressed 
as Missis by the mountaineers, but as Mistress 
when they speak formally, and as Mis' or Miz' 
for a contraction. We will hear an aged man 


referred to as "old Grandslr' " So-and-So. 
'' Back this letter for me " is a phrase un- 
changed from the days before envelopes, when 
an address had to be written on the back of the 
letter itself. "Can I borry a race of ginger?" 
means the unground root — you will find the 
word in A Winter s Tale. " Them sorry fel- 
lers " denotes scabby knaves, good-for-nothings. 
Sorry has no etymological connection with sor- 
row, but literally means sore-y, covered with 
sores, and the highlander sticks to its original 

We have In the mountains many home-born 
words to fit the circumstances of backwoods life. 
When maize has passed from the soft and milky 
stage of roasting-ears, but is not yet hard enough 
for grinding, the ears are grated into a soft meal 
and baked into delectable pones called gritted- 

In some places to-day we still find the ancient 
quern or hand-mill, jocularly called an arm- 
strong-machine. Someone who irked from turn- 
ing it invented the extraordinary improvement 
that goes by the name of pounding-mill. This 
consists of a pole pivoted horizontally on top 
of a post and free to move up and down like 
the walking-beam of an old-fashioned engine. 
To one end of this pole is attached a heavy pes- 


tie that works in a mortar underneath. At the 
other end is a box into which water flows from 
an elevated spout. When the box fills it will 
go down, lifting the pestle; then the water spills 
out and the pestle's weight lifts the box back 

Who knows what a toddick or taddle is? I 
did not until my friend Dargan reported it 
from the Nantahala. " Ben didn't git a full 
turn o' meal, but jest a toddick." When a 
farmer goes to one of our little tub-mills, men- 
tioned in previous chapters, he leaves a portion 
of the meal as toll. This he measures out in a 
toll-dish or toddick or taddle (the name varies 
with the locality) which the mill-owner left for 
that purpose. Toddick, then, is a small meas- 
ure. A turn of meal is so called because " each 
man's corn is ground in turn — he waits his 

When one dines in a cabin back In the hills 
he will taste some strange dishes that go by still 
stranger names. Beans dried in the pod, then 
boiled "hull and all," are called leather-breeches 
(this is not slang, but the regular name). Green 
beans in the pod are called snaps; when shelled 
they are shuck-beans. The old Germans taught 
their Scotch and English neighbors the merits 
of scrapple, but here it is known as poor-do. 


Lath-open bread is made from biscuit dough, 
with soda and buttermilk, in the usual way, 
except that the shortening is worked in last. It 
is then baked in flat cakes, and has the peculiar 
property of parting readily into thin flakes 
when broken edgewise. I suppose that poor-do 
was originally poor-doin's, and lath-open bread 
denotes that it opens into lath-like strips. But 
etymology cannot be pushed recklessly in the 
mountains, and I offer these clews as a mere 

Your hostess, proffering apple sauce, will 
ask, "Do you love sass?" I had to kick my 
chum Andy's shin the first time he faced this 
question. It is well for a traveler to be fore- 
warned that the word love is commonly used 
here in the sense of like or relish. 

If one is especially fond of a certain dish he 
declares that he is a fool about it. " I'm a plumb 
fool about pickle-beans." Conversely, " I ain't 
much of a fool about liver " is rather more than 
a hint of distaste. " I et me a bait " literally 
means a mere snack, but jocosely it may admit 
a hearty meal. If the provender be scant the 
hostess may say, " That's right at a smidgen,'* 
meaning little more than a mite; but if plente- 
ous, then there are rimptions. 

To "grabble 'taters" is to pick from a hill 


of new potatoes a few of the best, then smooth 
back the soil without disturbing the immature 

If the house be in disorder it is said to be all 
gormed or gaumed up, or things are just in a 

When a man is tired he likely will call it 
worried; if in a hurry, he is in a swivvet; if 
nervous, he has the all-overs; if declining in 
health, he is on the down-go. If he and his 
neighbor dislike each other, there is a hardness 
between them; if they quarrel, it is a ruction, 
a rippit, a jower, or an upscuddle — so be it there 
are no fatalities which would amount to a real 

A choleric or fretful person is tetchious. 
Survigrous (ser-ij/-grus) is a superlative of 
vigorous (here pronounced vi-grus, with long 
/) : as " a survigrous baby," " a most survigrous 
cusser." Bodaciously means bodily or entirely: 
"I'm bodaciously ruint " (seriously injured). 
" Sim greened him out bodaciously" (to green 
out or sap is to outwit in trade). To disfurnish 
or discon_^/ means to incommode: "I hope it 
has not disconfit you very bad." 

To shamp means to shingle or trim one's hair. 
A bastard is a woods-colt or an outsider. 
Slaunchways denotes slanting, and si-godlin or 


si-antigodlin is out of plumb or out of square 
(factitious words, of course — mere nonsense 
terms, like catawampus). 

Critter and beast are usually restricted to 
horse and mule, and brute to a bovine. A bull 
or boar is not to be mentioned as such in mixed 
company, but male-brute and male-hog are used 
as euphemisms.* 

A female shoat is called a gilt. A spotted 
animal is said to be pieded (pied), and a 
striped one is listed. In the Smokies a toad is 
called a frog or a toad-frog, and a toadstool is 
a frog-stool. The woodpecker is turned around 
into a peckerwood, except that the giant wood- 
pecker (here still a common bird) is known as 
a woodcock or woodhen. 

What the mountaineers call hemlock is the 
shrub Icucothoe. The hemlock tree is named 
spruce-pine, while spruce is he-balsam, balsam 
itself is she-balsam, laurel is ivy, and rhododen- 
dron is laurel. In some places pine needles are 
called twinkles, and the locust insect is known 
as a ferro (Pharaoh ?). A treetop left on the 

* So also in the lowland South. An extraordinary affec- 
tation of propriety appeared in a dispatch to the Atlanta 
Constitution of October 29, 1912, which reported that an 
exhibitor of cattle at the State fair had been seriously 
horned by a male cow. 


ground after logging is called the lap. Sobby 
wood means soggy or sodden, and the verb is 
to sob. 

Evening, in the mountains, begins at noon in- 
stead of at sunset. Spell is used in the sense of 
while (" a good spell atterv/ard") and soon for 
early ("a soon start in the morning"). The 
hillsmen say " a year come June," " Thursday 
'twas a week ago," and " the year nineteen and 

Many common English words are used in 
peculiar senses by the mountain folk, as call 
for name or mention or occasion, clever for 
obliging, mimic or mock for resemble, a power 
or a sight for much, risin' for exceeding (also 
for inflammation), ruin for injure, scout for 
elude, stove for jabbed, surround for go around, 
word for phrase, take ofif for help yourself. 
Tale always means an idle or malicious report. 

Some highland usages that sound odd to us 
are really no more than the original and literal 
meanings, as budget for bag or parcel, ham- 
pered for shackled or jailed. When a moun- 
tain swain " carries his gal to meetin' " he is not 
performing so great an athletic feat as was re- 
ported by Benjamin Franklin, who said, " My 
father carried his wife with three children to 
New England" (from Pennsylvania). 


A mountaineer does not throw a stone; he 
" flings a rock." He sharpens tools on a grind- 
in'-rock or whet-rock. Tomato, cabbage, mo- 
lasses and baking powder are always used as 
plural nouns. " Pass me them molasses." 
" I'll have a few more of them cabbage." 
" How many bakin'-powders has you got? " 

Many other peculiar words and phrases are 
explained in their proper place elsewhere in 
this volume. 

The speech of the southern highlanders is 
alive with quaint idioms. " I swapped bosses, 
and I'll tell you fer why." " Your name ain't 
much common." "Who got to beat?" "You 
think me of it in the mornin'." " I 'low to go 
to town to-morrow." " The woman's aimin' to 
go to meetin'." " I had in head to plow to-day, 
but hit's come on to rain." " I've laid off and 
laid off to fix that fence." " Reckon Pete was 
knowin' to the sarcumstance? " "I'll name it 
to Newt, if so be he's thar." " I knowed in 
reason she'd have the mullygrubs over them 
doin's." " You cain't handily blame her." 

" Air ye plumb bereft? " " How come it was 
this: he done me dirt." "I ain't carin' which 
nor whether about it." " Sam went to Andrews 
or to Murphy, one." " I tuk my fut in my hand 
and lit out." " He lit a rag fer home." " Don't 


much believe the wagon '11 come to-day." 
'' 'Tain't powerful long to dinner, I don't 
reckon." " Phil's Ann give it out to each and 
every that Walt and Layunie 'd orter wed." 

''Howdy, Tom: light and hitch." 

" Reckon I'd better git on." 

" Come in and set." 

" Cain't stop long." 

"Oh, set down and eat you some supper!" 

" I've been." 

'' Won't ye stay the night? Looks like to me 
we'll have a rainin', windin' spell." 

"No: I'll hafifter go down." 

" Well, come agin, and fix to stay a week." 

" You-uns come down with me." 

" Won't go now, I guess, Tom." 

"Giddep! I'll be back by in the mornin'." 


Rather laconic. Yet, on occasion, when the 
mountaineer is drawn out of his natural reserve 
and allows his emotions free rein, there are few 
educated people who can match his picturesque 
and pungent diction. His trick of apt phrasing 
is intuitive. Like an artist striking off a por- 
trait or a caricature with a few swift stroke?^ 
his characterization is quick and vivid. 
Whether he use quaint obsolete English or 
equally delightful perversions, what he says 


will go straight to the mark with epigrammatic 

I cannot quit this topic without reference to 
the bizarre and original place-names that 
sprinkle the map of Appalachia. 

Many readers of John Fox's novels take for 
granted that the author coined such piquant 
titles as Lonesome, Troublesome, Hell fer Sar- 
tin, and Kingdom Come. But all of these are 
real names in the Kentucky mountains. They 
denote rough country, and the country is rough, 
so that to a traveler it is plain enough why 
travel and travail were used interchangeably in 
old editions of Shakespeare. There is nothing 
like first-hand knowledge of mountain roads to 
revive sixteenth-century habits of thought and 
speech. The most scrupulous visitor will fain 
admit the aptness of mountain nomenclature. 

Kentucky has no monopoly of grotesque and 
whimsical local names. The whole Appalach- 
ian region, from the Virginias to Alabama, is 
peppered with them. Whatever else the south- 
ern mountaineer may be, he is original. Else- 
where throughout America we have place- 
names imported from the Old World as thick 
as weeds; but the pioneers of the southern hills 
either forgot that there was an Old World or 
they disdained to borrow from it. 


Personal names applied to localities are 
common enough, but they are those of actual 
settlers, not of notables honored from afar 
(Mitchell, LeConte, Guyot, were not the high- 
landers' names for those peaks). Often a sur- 
name is put to such use, as Jake's Creek, Old 
Nell Knob, and Big Jonathan Run. We even 
have Granny's Branch, and Daddy and Mammy 

In the main it is characteristic of our Appa- 
lachian place-names that they are descriptive 
or commemorate some incident. The Shut-in 
is a gorge; the Suck is a whirlpool; Pinch-gut 
is a narrow passage between the cliffs. Calf- 
killer Run is " whar a meat-eatin' bear was 
usin'," and Barren She Mountain was the death- 
ground of a she-bear that had no cubs. Kem- 
mer's Old Stand was a certain hunter's favorite 
ambush on a runway. Meat-scaffold Branch is 
where venison was hung up for " jerking." 
Graining-block Creek was a trappers' rendez- 
vous, and Honey Camp Run is where the bee 
hunters stayed. Lick-log denotes a notched log 
used for salting cattle. Still-house Branch was 
a moonshiners' retreat. Skin-linn Fork is where 
the bast was peeled from young lindens. Big 
Butt is what Westerners call a butte. Ball-play 
Bottom was a lacrosse field of the Indians. 


Pizen Gulch was infested with poison ivy or 
sumach. Keerless Knob is '' a joyful place for 
wild salat" (amaranthus) . A ''hell" or 
" slick " or " woolly-head " or " yaller patch " is 
a thicket of laurel or rhododendron, impassable 
save where the bears have bored out trails. 

The qualities of the raw backwoodsmen are 
printed from untouched negatives in the names 
he has left upon the map. His literalness 
shows in Black Rock, Standing Stone, Sharp 
Top, Twenty Mile, Naked Place, The Pocket, 
Tumbling Creek, and in the endless designa- 
tions taken from trees, plants, minerals, or ani- 
mals noted on the spot. Incidents of his lonely 
life are signalized in Dusk Camp Run, Mad 
Sheep Mountain, Dog Slaughter Creek, 
Drowning Creek, Burnt Cabin Branch, Broken 
Leg, Raw Dough, Burnt Pone, Sandy Mush, 
and a hundred others. His contentious spirit 
blazes forth in Fighting Creek, Shooting 
Creek, Gouge-eye, Vengeance, Four Killer, 
and Disputanta. 

Sometimes even his superstitions are com- 
memorated. In Owesley County, Kentucky, is 
a range of hills bearing the singular name of 
Whoop fer Larrie. A party of hunters, so the 
legend goes, had encamped for the night in the 
shelter of a blufif. They were startled from 


sleep by a loud rumble, as of some wagon hur- 
rying along the pathless ridge, and they heard a 
voice shouting "Whoop fer Larriel Whoop 
fer Larrie! " The hills would return no echo, 
for the cry came from a riotous " ha'nt." 

A sardonic humor, sometimes smudged with 
" that touch of grossness in our English race," 
characterizes many of the backwoods place- 
names. In the mountains of Old Virginia we 
have Dry Tripe settlement and Jerk 'em Tight. 
In West Virginia are Take In Creek, Get In 
Run, Seldom Seen Hollow, Odd, Buster Knob, 
Shabby Room, and Stretch Yer Neck. North 
Carolina has its Shoo Bird Mountain, Big 
Bugaboo Creek, Weary Hut, Frog Level, 
Shake a Rag, and the Chunky Gal. In eastern 
Tennessee are No Time settlement and No 
Business Knob, with creeks known as Big Soak, 
Suee, Go Forth, and How Come You. Georgia 
has produced Scataway, Too Nigh, Long 
Nose, Dug Down, Silly Cook, Turkey Trot, 
Broke Jug Creek, and Tear Breeches Ridge. 

Allowing some license for the mountaineer's 
irreverence, his whimsical fancies, and his scorn 
of sentimentalism, it must be said that his de- 
scriptive terms are usually apposite and some- 
times felicitous. Often he is poetically imagin- 
ative, occasionally romantic, and generally pic- 


turesque. Roan Mountain, Grandfather, the 
Lone Bald, Craggy Dome, the Black Brothers, 
Hairy Bear, the Balsam Cone, Sunset Moun- 
tain, the Little Snowbird, are names that linger 
lovingly in one's memory. 

The writer recalls with pleasure not only the 
features but the mere titles of that superb land- 
scape that he shared with the wild creatures and 
a few woodsmen when living far up on the di- 
vide of the Great Smoky Mountains. Imme- 
diately below his cabin were the Defeat and 
Desolation branches of Bone Valley, with Hazel 
Creek meandering to the Little Tennessee. 
Cheoah, Tululah, Santeetlah, the Tuckaseegee, 
and the Nantahala (Valley of the Noonday 
Sun) flowed through gorges overlooked by the 
Wauchecha, the Yalaka and the Cowee ranges, 
Tellico, Wahyah, the Standing Indian and the 
Tusquitee.* Sonorous names, these, which our 
pioneers had the good sense to adopt from the 

To the east were Cold Spring Knob, the Miry 

* Pronounced Chee-o-ah, Chil-//07C'-ce, Cow-r^, Cul-lo- 
whee, High-zffl//-see, Nan-tali-//rtj'-lah, 0-/-o-na Lttf-ty, 
San-teet-lsh, Tel-\i-co, Tuck;-a-/rr-chee, Tuck-as ee-gee, 
Tuh-/oo-lah, Txis-quit-ee, Wah-yah (explosively on last 
syllable), Wnu-ke-chah, Yah-/r///-kah (commonly Ah-lar-ka. 
or ^Lar-ky by the settlers), You-nay-kah. 


Ridge, Siler's Bald, Clingman's Dome, and the 
great peaks at the head of Okona Lufty. On 
the west rose Brier Knob, Laurel Top, Thun- 
derhead. Blockhouse, the Fodder-stack, and 
various " balds " of the Unakas guarding Hi- 
wassee. To the northward were Cade's Cove 
and the vale of Tuckaleechee, with Chilhowee 
in the near distance, and the Appalachian Valley 
stretching beyond our ramparts to where the far 
Cumberlands marked an ever-blue horizon. 

What matter that the plenteous roughs 
about us were branded with rude or oppro- 
brious names? Rip Shin Thicket, Dog-hobble 
Ridge, the Rough Arm, Bear-wallow, Woolly 
Ridge, Roaring Fork, Huggins's Hell, the 
Devil's Racepath, his Den, his Courthouse, and 
other playgrounds of Old Nick — they, too, 
were well and fitly named. 



IT is only a town-dreamed allegory that rep- 
resents Nature as a fond mother suckling 
her young upon her breast. Those ^vho 
have lived literally close to wild Nature know 
her for a tyrant, void of pity and of mercy, 
from whom nothing can be wrung without toil 
and the risk of death. 

To all pioneer men — to their women and 
children, too — life has been one long, hard, 
cruel war against elemental powers. Nothing 
else than warlike arts, nothing short of warlike 
hazards, could have subdued the beasts and 
savages, felled the forests and made our land 
habitable for those teeming millions who can 
exist only in a state of mutual dependence and 
cultivation. The first lesson of pioneering was 
self-reliance. " Provide with thine own arm," 
said the Wilderness, " against frost and famine 
and skulking foes, or thou shalt surely die!" 

But there were compensations. As the school 
of the woods was harsh and stern, so it brought 



up sons and daughters of lion heart. And its 
reward to those who endured was the most out- 
right independence to be had on earth. No 
king was so irresponsible as the pioneer, no 
czar so absolute as he. It needed no martyr 
spirit in him to sing: 

" I am the master of my fate, 
I am the captain of my soul." 

We have seen that the Appalachian region 
was peculiar in this: that good bottom lands 
were few and far between. So our mountain 
farmers were cut ofif more from the world and 
from each other, were thrown still more upon 
their individual resources, than other pioneers. 
By compulsion their self-reliance was more 
complete; hence their independence grew more 
haughty, their individualism more intense. And J 
these traits, exaggerated as they were by force 
of environment, remain unweakened among 
their descendants to the present day. 

Here, then, is a key to much that is puzzling 
in highland character. In the beginning isola- 
tion was forced upon the mountaineers; they 
accepted it as inevitable and bore it with stoical 
fortitude until in time they came to love solitude 
for its own sake and to find compensations in it 
for lack of society. 


Says a native writer, Miss Emma Miles, in 
a clever and illuminating book on The Spirit 
of the Mountains'. " We who live so far apart 
that we rarely see more of one another than the 
blue smoke of each other's chimneys are never 
at ease without the feel of the forest on every 
side — room to breathe, to expand, to develop, 
as well as to hunt and to wander at will. The 
nature of the mountaineer demands that he have 
solitude for the unhampered growth of his per- 
sonality, wing-room for his eagle heart." 

Such feeling, such longing, most of us have 
experienced in passing moods; but in the high- 
lander it is a permanent state of mind, sustain- 
ing him from the cradle to the grave. To enjoy 
freedom and air and elbow-room he cheerfully 
puts aside all that society can offer, and stints 
himself and bears adversity with a calm and 
steadfast soul. To be free, unbeholden, lord 
of himself and his surroundings — that is the 
wine of life to a mountaineer. 

Such a man cannot stand it to be bossed 
around. If he works for another, it must be 
on a footing of equality. Poverty may oblige 
him to take a turn on some " public works " 
(by which he means any job where many men 
work together, such as lumbering or railroad 
building), but he must be handled with more 


respect than is shown common laborers else- 
where. At a sharp order or a curse from the 
foreman he will flare back: "That's enough 
out o' you! " and immediately he will drop his 
tools. Generally he will stay on a job just long 
enough to earn money for immediate needs; 
then back to the farm he goes.^ 

Bear in mind that in the mountains every 
person is accorded the consideration that his 
own qualities entitle him to, and no whit more. 
It has always been so. Our highlanders have 
neither memory nor tradition of ever having 
been herded together, lorded over, persecuted 
or denied the privileges of freemen. So, even 
within their clans, there is no servility nor any 
headship by right of birth. Leaders arise, when 
needed, only by virtue of acknowledged ability 
and efficiency. In this respect there is no anal- 
ogy whatever to the clan system of ancient Scot- 
land, to which the loose social structure of our 
own highlanders has been compared. 

We might expect such fiery individualism to 
cool gradually as population grew denser; but, 
oddly enough, crowding only intensifies it in 
the shy backwoodsman. Neighborliness has not 
grown in the mountains — it is on the wane. 
There are to-day fewer log-rollings and house- 
raisings, fewer husking bees and quilting parties 


than in former times; and no new social gather- 
ings have taken their place. Our mountain 
farmer, seeing all arable land taken up, and the 
free range ever narrowing, has grown jealous 
and distrustful, resenting the encroachment of 
too many sharers in what once he felt was his 
own unfenced domain. And so it has come 
about that the very quality that is his strength 
and charm as a man — his staunch individualism 
— is proving his weakness and reproach as a 
neighbor and citizen. The virtue of a time out- 
worn has become the vice of an age new-born. 
The mountaineers are non-social. As they 
stand to-day, each man " fighting for his own 
hand, with his back against the wall," they 
recognize no social compact. Each one is sus- 
picious of the other. Except as kinsmen or 
partisans they cannot pull together. Speak to 
them of community of interests, try to show 
them the advantages of co-operation, and you 
might as well be proffering advice to the North 
Star. They will not work together zealously 
even to improve their neighborhood roads, each 
mistrusting that the other may gain some trifling 
advantage over himself or turn fewer shovelfuls 
of earth. Labor chiefs fail to organize unions 
or granges among them because they simply 
will not stick together. 


Miss Miles says of her people (the Italics 
are my own) : "There is no such thing as a 
community of mountaineers. They are knit to- 
gether, man to man, as friends, but not as a body 
of men. . . . Our men are almost incapable 
of concerted action unless they are needed by 
the Government. . . . Between blood-rela- 
tionship and the Federal Government no rela- 
tions of master and servant, rich and poor, 
learned and ignorant, employer and employee, 
are interposed to bind society into a whole. 
. . . The mountaineers must awake to a con- 
sciousness of themselves as a people. For al- 
though throughout the highlands of Kentucky, 
Tennessee and the Carolinas our nature is one, 
our hopes, our loves, our daily life the same, 
we are yet a people asleep, a race without knowl- 
edge of its own existence. This condition is due 
... to the isolation that separates the moun- 
taineer from all the world but his own blood 
and kin, and to the consequent utter simplicity 
of social relations. When they shall have estab- 
lished a unity of thought corresponding to their 
homogeneity of character, then their love of 
country will assume a practical form, and then, 
indeed, America, with all her peoples, car> 
boast no stronger sons than these same moun- 

Let the women do the work 


To the Highlanders of four States here men- 
tioned should be added all those of Old Virginia, 
West Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama, making 
an aggregate to-day of close on four million 
souls. Together they constitute a distinct peo- 
ple. Not only are they all closely akin in blood, 
in speech, in ideas, in manners, in ways of liv- 
ing; but their needs, their problems are iden- 
tical throughout this vast domain. There is no 
other ethnic group In America so unmixed as 
these mountaineers and so segregated from all 

And the strange thing Is that they do not 
know It. Their Isolation is so complete that 
they have no race consciousness at all. In this 
respect I can think of no other people on the 
face of the earth to which they may be likened. 

As compensation for the peculiar weakness 
of their social structure, the Highlanders dis- 
play an undying devotion to family and kindred. 
Mountaineers everywhere are passionately at- 
tached to their homes. Tear away from his 
native rock your Switzer, your Tyrolean, your 
Basque, your Montenegrin, and all alike are 
stricken with homesickness beyond speech or 
cure. At the first chance they will return, and 
thenceforth will cling to their patrimonies, 
however poor these be. 


So, too, our man of the Appalachians. — " I 
went down into the valley, wunst, and I declar 
I nigh sultered! 'Pears like there ain't breath 
enough to go round, with all them people. And 
the water don't do a body no good; an' you 
cain't eat hearty, nor sleep good o' nights. 
Course they pay big money down thar; but I'd 
a heap-sight ruther ketch me a big old 'coon 
fer his hide. Boys, I did hone fer my dog 
Fiddler, an' the times we'd have a-huntin', and 
the trout-fishin', an' the smell o' the woods, and 
nobody bossin' and jowerin' at all. I'm a hill- 
billy, all right, and they needn't to glory their 
old flat lands to me!" 

Domestic affection is seldom expressed by the 
mountaineers — not even by motherly or sisterly 
kisses — but it is very deep and real for all that. 
In fact, the ties of kinship are stronger with 
them, and extend to remoter degrees of consan- 
guinity, than with any other Americans that I 
know. Here again we see working the old 
feudal idea, an anachronism, but often a beau- 
tiful one, in this bustling commercial age. Our 
hived and promiscuous life in cities is breaking 
down the old fealty of kith and kin. " God 
gives us our relatives," sighs the modern, '' but, 
thank God, we can choose our friends! " Such 
words would strike a mountaineer deep with 


horror. Rather would he go the limit of Stev- 
enson's Saint Ives: " If it is a question of going 
to hell, go to hell like a gentleman, with your 
ancestors! " 

When the wilderness came to be settled by 
white men, courts were feeble to puerility, and 
every man was a law unto himself. Many hard 
characters came in with the pioneers — bad 
neighbors, arrogant, thievish, bold. As society 
was not organized for mutual protection, it was 
inevitable that cousin should look to cousin for 
help in time of trouble. So arose the clan, the 
family league, and, as things change very slowly 
in the mountains, we still have clan loyalty out- 
side of and superior to the law. " My family 
right or wrong!" is a slogan to which every 
highlander will rise, with money or arms in 
hand, and for it he will lay down his last dollar, 
the last drop of his blood. There is scarce any 
limit to which this fealty will not go. Your 
brother or cousin may have committed a crime 
that shocks you as it does all other decent citi- 
zens ; but will you give him up to the officers and 
testify against him? Not if you are a moun- 
taineer. You will hide him out in the laurel, 
carry him food, keep him posted, help him to 
break jail, perjure yourself for him in .court — 
anything, everything, to get him clear. 


We see here a survival, very real and wide- 
spread, in this twentieth-century Appalachia, of 
a condition that was general throughout the 
Scotch Highlands in the far past. " The great 
virtue of the Highlander," says Lecky, " was 
his fidelity to his chief and to his clan. It took 
the place of patriotism and of loyalty to his 
sovereign. ... In the reign of James V., an 
insurrection of Clan Chattan having been sup- 
pressed by Murray, two hundred of the insur- 
gents were condemned to death. Each one as 
he was led to the gallows was offered a pardon 
if he would reveal the hiding-place of his chief, 
but they all answered that, were they acquainted 
with it, no sort of punishment could induce them 
to be guilty of treachery to their leader. . . . 
In 1745 the house of Macpherson of Cluny was 
burnt to the ground by the King's troops. A 
reward of £1,000 was offered for his apprehen- 
sion. A large body of soldiers was stationed in 
the district and a step of promotion was prom- 
ised to any officer who should secure him. Yet 
for nine years the chief was able to live con- 
cealed on his ow^n property in a cave which his 
clansmen dug for him during the night, and, 
though upwards of one hundred persons knew 
of his place of retreat, no bribe or menace could 
extort the secret." 


The same chivalrous, self-sacrificing fidelity 
to family and to clan leader is still shown by 
our own highlanders, as scores of feuds and 
hundreds of criminal trials attest. All this is 
openly and unblushingly " above the law"; but 
let us remember that the law itself, in many 
of these localities, is but a feeble, dilatory thing 
that offers practically no protection to those 
who would obey its letter. So, in an imper- 
fectly organized society, it is good to have blood- 
ties that are faithful unto death. And none 
knows it better than he who has missed it — he 
who has lived strange and alone in some wild, 
lawless region where everyone else had a clan 
to back him. 

So far as primitive society Is concerned, we 
may admit with the Scotch historian Henderson 
that " the clan system of government was In Its 
way an Ideally perfect one — probably the only 
perfect one that has ever existed. . . . The 
clansman w^as not the subject — a term Implying 
some sort of conquest — but the kinsman of his 
chief. . . . Obedience became rather a privi- 
lege than a task, and no possible bribery or 
menace could shake his fidelity. Towards the 
Sassenach or the members of clans at feud with 
him he might act meanly, treacherously, and 
cruelly without check and without compunc- 


tion, for there he recognized no moral obliga- 
tions whatever. But as a clansman to his clan 
he was courteous, truthful, virtuous, benevolent, 
with notions of honor as punctilious as those of 
the ancient knight." 

The trouble with clan government was, as 
this same writer has pointed out, that " it was 
the very thoroughness of its adaptation to early 
needs that made it so hard to adjust to new 
necessities. In its principles and motives it was 
essentially opposed to the bent of modern influ- 
ences. Its appeal was to sentiment rather than 
to law or even reason: it was a system not of the 
letter but of the spirit. . . . The clan system 
was efficient only within a narrow area; it gave 
rise to interminable feuds; and it was inapplic- 
able to the circumstances created by the rise, 
of modern industry and trade." 

Everywhere throughout Highland Dixie to- 
day we can observe how clan loyalty interferes 
with the administration of justice. When a 
case involving some strong family comes up in 
the courts, immediately a cloud of false wit- 
nesses arises, men who should testify on the 
other side are bribed or run out of the country 
before subpoenas can be served, and every juror 
knows that his peace and prosperity in future 
depend largely upon which side he espouses. 


To what lengths the hostility of a clan may 
go in defying justice was shown recently in the 
massacre of almost a whole court by the Allen 
clan at Hillsville, Virginia. The news of that 
atrocity swept like wildfire throughout all Ap- 
palachia, its history is being reviewed to-day in 
thousands of mountain cabins, and it is deeply 
significant that, away out here in western Caro- 
lina, where no Allen blood relationship preju- 
dices men's minds, the prevailing judgment of 
our backwoodsmen is that the State of Virginia 
did wrong in executing any of the offenders. 
" There was something back of it — you mark 
my words," say the country folk. And the 
drummers, cattle-buyers, and others who pass 
this way from southwestern Virginia tell us, 
" Everybody up our way sympathizes with 
the Aliens." 

In some measure this morbid sentiment is due 
to the spectacular features of the Hillsville 
tragedy. If there be one human quality that 
the mountaineer admires above all others, it is 
" nerve." And what greater display of nerve 
has been made in tliis generation than for a few 
clansmen to shoot down a judge at the bench, 
the public prosecutor, the sheriff, the clerk of 
the court, and two jurymen, then take to tlie 
mountain laurel like Corsieans to the maquis. 


and defy the armed power of the country? The 
cause does not matter, to a mountaineer. Our 
highlanders are anything but robbers, for in- 
stance, and yet the only outsider who has ballads 
sung in his memory throughout Appalachia is 
Jesse James! — unless Jack Donohue was one; — 
I do not know. — 

Come all ye bold undaunted men 

And outlaws of the day, 
Who'd rather wear the ball and chain 

Than work in slavery! 

• • • • • 

Said Donohue to his comrades, 

" If you'll prove true to me, 
This day I'll fight with all my might, 

I'll fight for liberty; 
Be of good courage, be bold and strong, 

Be galliant and be true ; 
This day I'll fight with all my might," 

Says bold Jack Donohue. 

• • • • • 

Six policemen he shot down 

Before the fatal ball 
Pierced the heart of Donohue 

And 'casioncd him to fall ; 
And then he closed his struggling eyes, 
And bid this world adieu. 

Come all ye boys that fear no noise, 

And pray for Donohue ! 


No doubt the mountain minstrels are already 
composing ballads in honor of the Aliens; for 
it is a fact we cannot blink at that the outlaw is 
the popular hero of Appalachia to-day, as Rob 
Roy and Robin Hood were in the Britain of 
long ago. This is not due to any ingrained hos- 
tility to law and order as such, but simply to 
admiration for any men who fight desperately 
against overwhelming odds. There is a glamour 
about bold and lawless adventure that fascinates 
mature men and women who have never out- 
grown youthful habits of mind. Whoever has 
the reputation of being a dangerous man to cross 
— the " marked" man, who carries his life upon 
his sleeve, but bears himself as a smiling cava- 
lier — he is the only true aristocrat among a 
valorous but primitive people. 

But this is only half an explanation. The 
statement that our highlanders are not hostile to 
law and order must be qualified to this extent: 
they have a profound distrust of the courts. The 
mountaineer is not only a born fighter but 
he is also litigious by nature and tradition. A 
stranger will be surprised to find how deeply 
the average backwoodsman is versed in the petty 
subtleties of legal practice. It comes from expe- 
rience. "Court-week" draws bigger crowds 
than a circus. The mountaineer who has never 


served as juror, witness, or principal in a law- 
suit is a curiosity. And this familiarity has 
bred secret contempt. I violate no confidence 
in saying that many a mountaineer would hold 
up one hand to testify his respect for the law 
while the other hand hovered over his pistol. 

Why so? 

Just because his experience has taught him 
(rightly or wrongly — but he firmly believes it) 
that courts are swayed by sinister influences 
when important matters are at stake. Those 
influences are clan money and clan votes. 
Hence, if he or a kinsman be involved in 
'' lawin' " with a member of some rival tribe, 
he does not look for impartial treatment, but 
prepares to fight cunning with cunning, local 
influence with local influence. There are no 
moral obligations here. "All's fair in love and 
war " — and this is one form of war. 

If the reader will take down his David Bal- 
four and read the intrigues, plots, and counter- 
plots of David's attorneys and those of the 
Crown, he will grasp our own highlanders' 

That mountain courts are often impotent Is 
due in part to the limitations under which their 
officers are obliged to serve. For example, In 
the judicial district where I reside, the solicitor 


(State's attorney) receives nothing but fees, and 
then only in case of conviction. It might seem 
that this would stir him to extra zeal, and per- 
haps it does; but he has a large circuit, there 
are no local officials specially interested in se- 
curing evidence for him while the case is white- 
hot, everything spurs the defendant to get rid 
of dangerous witnesses before the solicitor can 
get at them, public opinion is extremely lenient 
toward homicides, and man-slayers so often get 
off scot-free after the most faithful and labori- 
ous efforts of the solicitor, that he becomes dis- 

The sheriff, too, serves without salary, getting 
only fees and a percentage of tax collections. 
How this works, in securing witnesses, may be 
shown by an anecdote. — 

I looked up from my work, one day, to see 
a neighbor striding swiftly along the trail that 
passed my cabin. 

" You seem in a hurry, John. Woods afire? " 

"No: I'm dodgin' the sheriff." 

" Whose pig was it? " 

" Aw ! He wants me as witness in a concealed 
weepon case." 

" One of your boys?" 

" Huk-uh: nobody as I'm keerin' fer." 

" Then why don't you go? " 


" I cain't afford to. I'd haffter walk nineteen 
miles out to the railroad, pay seventy cents the 
round-trip to the county-site, pay my board thar 
fer mebbe a week, and then a witness don't git 
no fee at all onless they convict." 

"What does the sheriff get for coming away 
up here? " 

" Thirty cents for each witness he cotches. 
He won't git me. Mister Man; not if I know 
these woodb' since yistiddy." 

Verily the law of Swain is hard on the solic- 
itor, hard on the sheriff, and hard on the witness, 

Mountaineers place a low valuation on hu- 
man life. I need not go outside my own habitat 
for illustrations. In our judicial district, which 
comprises the westernmost seven counties of 
North Carolina, the present yearly toll of homi- 
cides varies, according to counties, from about 
one in i,ooo to one in 2,500 of the population. 
And ours is not a feud district, nor are there 
any negroes to speak of. Compare these figures 
with the rate of homicide in the United States 
at large, about one to 16,000 population ; of Italy, 
one to 66,000; Great Britain, one to 111,000; 
Germany, one to 200,000. 

And the worst of it is that no Black Hand con- 
spirators or ward gun-men or other professional 


criminals figure in these killings. Practically- 
all of them are committed by representative citi- 
zens, mostly farmers. Take that fact home, and 
think what it means. Remember, too, that most 
of these murderers either escape with light penal 
sentences or none at all. The only capital sen- 
tence imposed in our district within the past ten 
years was upon an Indian who had assaulted and 
murdered a white girl (there was no red tape 
or procrastination about that trial, the court- 
house being filled with men who were ready to 
lynch him under the judge's nose if the sentence 
were not satisfactory). 

I said at the very outset of this book that 
" Our mountain folk still live in the eighteenth 
century. The progress of mankind from that 
age to this is no heritage of theirs. . . . And 
so, in order to be fair and just with these our 
backward kinsmen, we must, for the time, deciv- 
ilize ourselves to the extent of going back and 
getting an eighteenth century point of view." 

As regards the valuation of human life, what 
was that point of view? 

The late Professor Shaler of Harvard, him- 
self a Southerner, one time explained the preva- 
lence of manslaughter among southern gentle- 
men. His remarks apply with equal truth to 
our mountaineers, for they, however poor they 


may be in worldly goods, are by no means " poor 
white trash," but rather patricians, like the 
ragged but lofty chiefs and clansmen of old 
Scotland. — 

" Nothing so surprises the northern people as the fact 
that southern men of good estate will, for what seems to 
the distant onlooker trifling matters of dispute, proceed to 
slay each other. Nothing so gravely offends the character- 
istic southern n^.an as the incapacity of his brethren of north- 
ern societies to perceive that such action is natural and con- 
sistent with the rules of gentlemanly behavior. The only 
way to understand these differences of opinion is by a proper 
consideration of the history of the moral growth of these 
diverse peoples. 

" The Southerner has retained and fostered — in a certain 
way reinstated — the medieval estimate as to the value of 
life. In the opinion of those ages it was but lightly es- 
teemed ; it was not a supreme good for which almost all 
else was to be sacrificed, but something to be taken in hand 
and put in risk in the pursuit of manly ideals. 

" Modernism has worked to intensify the passion for exist- 
ence until those who are the most under its dominion can- 
not well conceive how a man, except for some supreme duty 
to which he is pledged by altruistic motives, can give up his 
own life or take that of his neighbor. If these people of 
to-day will but perceive that the characteristic Southerner 
has preserved the motives of two centuries ago, if they will 
but inform themselves as to the state of mind on this subject 
which prevailed in the epoch when those motives were shaped 
in men, they will see that their judgment is harsh and 
unreasonable. It is much as if they judged the actions of 


Englishmen of the seventeenth century by the changed 
standards of to-day. 

" Nor will it be altogether reasonable to condemn the 
lack of regard of life which we find in the southern gentle- 
man as compared with his northern contemporary. We 
must, of course, reprobate in every way the evil conse- 
quences of this state of mind; but the question as to the 
propriety of that extreme devotion to continued mundane 
existence which is so manifest in our modern civilization is 
certainly open to debate. Irrational and brutal as are the 
ways in which the old-fashioned gentleman of the South 
shows that his regard for his own honor or that of his 
household outweighs his love of life, it must be remembered 
that the same condition existed in the richest ages of our 
race — those which gave proportionally the largest share of 
ability and nobility to its history. 

" As long as men are more keenly sensitive to the opin- 
ions of their fellows than they are to the other goods which 
existence brings them, as long as this opinion makes personal 
valor and truthfulness the jewels of their lives, we must ex- 
pect now and then to have degradation of the essentially 
noble motives. It is, undoubtedly, a dangerous state of mind, 
but not one that is degraded." — (North American Revieiu, 
October, 1890.) 

"The motives of two centuries ago" are the 
motives of present-day Appalachia. Here the 
right of private war is not questioned, outside 
of a judge's charge from the bench, which 
everybody takes as a mere formality, a conven- 
tion that is not to be taken seriously. The argu- 
ment is this: that when Society, as represented 


by the State, cannot protect a man or secure him 
his dues, then he is not only justified but in duty 
bound to defend himself or seize what is his 
own. And in the mountains Society with the 
big S is often powerless against the Clan with 
a bigger C. 


IN Corsica, when a man is wronged by an- 
other, public sentiment requires that he 
redress his own grievance, and that his 
family and friends shall share the consequences. 

" Before the law made us citizens, great Na- 
ture made us men." 

"When one has an enemy, one must choose 
between the three S's — schiopeito, stiletto, 
strada : the rifle, the dagger, or flight." 

" There are two presents to be made to an 
enemy — pal/a calda o ferro freddo : hot shot or 
cold steel." 

The Corsican code of honor does not require 
that vengeance be taken in fair fight. Rather 
should there be a sudden thrust of the knife, or 
a pistol fired point-blank into the enemy's breast, 
or a rifle-shot from some ambush picked in 

The assassin is not conscious of any cowardice 

in such act. If the trouble between him and his 

foe had been strictly a personal matter, to be 



settled forever by one man's fall, then he might 
have welcomed a duel with all the punctilios. 
But his blood is not his alone — it belongs to his 
clan. Whenever a Corsican is slain his family 
takes up the feud. A vendetta ensues — a war 
of extermination by clan against clan. 

Now, the chief object of war, as all strategists 
agree, is to inflict the greatest loss upon the 
enemy with the least loss to one's own side. 
Hence we have hostilities without declaration 
of war; we have the ambush, the night attack, 
masked batteries, mines and submarines. Thus 
we murder hundreds asleep or unshriven. This 
is war. 

Moreover, while a soldier must be brave In 
any extremity, it is no less his duty to save him- 
self unharmed as long as he can, so that he may 
help his own side and kill more and more of the 
enemy. Therefore it is proper and military for 
him to " snipe " his foes by deliberate sharp- 
shooting from behind any lurking-place that he 
can find. This is war. 

And the vendetta, says our Corsican, is noth- 
ing else than war. 

When Matteo has been slain by an enemy, his 
friends carry his body home and swear ven- 
geance over the corpse, while his wife soaks her 
handkerchief in his wounds to keep as a token 


whereby she will incite her children, as they 
grow up, to war against all kinsmen of their 
father's murderer. 

Then a son or brother of Matteo slips forth 
into the night, full-armed to slay like a dog any 
member of the rival faction whom he may find 
at a disadvantage. The deed done, he flies to 
the maqiiis, the mountain thicket, and there he 
will hide, dodging the gendarmes, fighting off 
his enemies — an outlaw with a price upon his 
head, but pitied or admired by all Corsicans out- 
side the feud, and succored by his clan. 

It is a far cry from the Mediterranean to our 
own Appalachia: so why this prelude? Our 
mountaineers never heard of Corsica. Not a 
drop of South European blood flows in their 
veins. Few of them ever heard one word of a 
foreign tongue. True. And yet we shall mark 
son'^e strange analogies between Corsican ven- 
dettas and Appalachian feuds, Corsican clan- 
nishness and Appalachian clannishness, Corsi- 
can women and our mountain women — before 
this chapter ends. 

Long, long ago, in the mountains of eastern 
Kentucky, Dr. Abner Baker married a Miss 
White. Daniel Bates married Baker's sister, 
but separated from her In 1844. Baker charged 
Bates with undue intimacy with his wife, and 


killed him. The Whites, defending their kins- 
woman, prosecuted the Doctor, but he was 
acquitted, and moved to Cuba. 

Afterwards Baker returned. In flat violation 
of the Constitution of the United States, he was 
tried a second time for the murder of Bates, was 
convicted, and was hanged. Thenceforth there 
was " bad blood " between the Bakers and the 
Whites, involving the Garrards on one side and 
the Howards on the other, as allies to the re- 
spective clans. 

In 1898, Tom Baker, reputed to be the best 
shot in the Kentucky mountains, bought a note 
given by A. B. Howard, for whom he w^as cut- 
ting timber. Howard became furious, a fight 
ensued, one of the Howard boys and Burt Stores 
were killed from ambush, and the elder Howard 
was wounded. 

Thereupon Jim Howard, son of the clan 
chief, sought out Tom Baker's father, who was 
county attorney, compelled the unarmed old 
man to fall upon his knees, shot him twenty-five 
times with careful aim to avoid a vital spot, and 
so killed him by inches. Howard was tried and 
convicted of murder, but it is said that a pardon 
was ofifered him if he would go to the State 
Capitol at Frankfort and assassinate Governor 
Goebel, which he is charged with having done. 


In Clay County, where this feud waged, the 
judge, clerk, sheriff, and jailer were of the 
\^''hite clan. Tom Baker killed a brother of the 
sheriff and took to the hills rather than give 
himself up to a court ruled by his foemen. Then 
Albert Garrard was fired upon from ambush 
while riding with his w^Ife to a religious meet- 
ing. He removed to Pineville, in another 
county, under guard of two armed men, both 
of whom were shot dead " from the bresh." 

Governor Bradley sent State troops into Clay 
County, and Tom Baker surrendered to them. 
Baker was tried in the Knox Circuit Court, on 
a change of venue, and was sentenced to the 
penitentiary for life. On appeal his attorneys 
secured a reversal of the verdict, and Baker was 
released on bail. The new trial was set for 
June, 1899. Governor Bradley again sent a 
company of State militia, with a Gatling gun, 
to Manchester where the trial was to be held. 
Baker was put in a guard-tent surrounded by a 
squad of soldiers. A hundred yards or so from 
this tent stood the unoccupied residence of the 
sheriff, at the foot of a wooded mountain. An 
assassin hidden in this house spied upon the 
guard-tent, and, when Baker appeared, shot him 
dead with a rifle, then took to the woods and 


I quote now from a history of this feud pub- 
lished in Munsey's Magazine of November, 

"Captain John Bryan, of the 2d Kentucky, said to the 
widow of the murdered Tom Baker, after they returned 
from the funeral: 

Mrs. Baker, why don't you leave this miserable coun- 
try and escape from these terrible feuds?, Move away, and 
teach your children to forget.' 

Captain Bryan,' said the widow, and she spoke evenly 
and quietly, * I have twelve sons. It will be the chief aim 
of my life to bring them up to avenge their father's death. 
Each day I shall show my boys the handkerchief stained 
with his blood, and tell them who murdered him.' " 

Corsican vendetta or Kentucky feud — w^hat 
are language and race against age-long isolation 
and an environment that keeps humanity feral 
to the core? 

Shortly after Baker's death, four Griffins, of 
the White-Howard faction, ambushed Big John 
Philpotts and his cousin, wounding the former 
severely and the latter mortally. Big John 
fought them from behind a log and killed all 

On July 17, 1899, four of the Philpotts were 
attacked by four Morrises, of the Howard side. 
Three men were killed, three mortally wound- 
ed, and the other two were severely injured. 
No arrests were made. 


Finally, in 1901, the two clans fought a 
pitched battle in front of the court-house in 
Manchester. At its conclusion they formally 
signed a truce. 

This is a mere scenario of a feud in the 
wealthiest and best-schooled county of eastern 
Kentucky. Two of the families involved were 
of distinguished lineage, counting in their ranks 
a governor, three generals, a member of Con- 
gress, and a prohibition candidate for the Presi- 

In reviewing this feud, Governor Bradley 

"The whole fault in Clay County is a vitiated public 
sentiment and a failure of the civil authorities to do their 
duty. The laws are insufficient for the Governor to apply 
a remedy. Such feuds have been in progress more or less 
for years, and no Governor of the State has ever been able 
to quell them. They have terminated only when their force 
was spent by one side or the other being killed or moving 
out of the country." 

"The laws are insufficient for the Governor 
to apply a remedy." One naturally asks, " How 
so?" The answer is that the Governor cannot 
send troops into a county except upon request 
of the civil authorities, and they must go as a 
posse to civil officers. In most feuds these of- 
ficers are partisans (in fact, it is a favorite ruse 


for one clan to win or usurp the county offices 
before making war). Hence the State troo]3S 
would only serve as a reinforcement to one of 
the contending factions. To show how this 
works out, we will sketch briefly the course of 
another feud. — 

In Rowan County, Kentucky, in 1884, theie 
was an election quarrel between two members 
of the Martin and Toliver families. The 
Logans sided with the Martins and the Youngs 
with the Tolivers. The Logan-Martin faction 
elected their candidate for sheriff by a margin 
of twelve votes. Then there was an affray in 
which one Logan was killed and three were 

As usual, in feuds, no immediate redress was 
attempted, but the injured clan plotted its ven- 
geance with deadly deliberation. After five 
months, Dick Martin killed Floyd Toliver. 
His own people worked the trick of arresting 
him themselves and sent him to Winchester for 
safe-keeping. The Tolivers succeeded in hav- 
ing him brought back on a forged order and 
killed him when he was bound and helpless. 

The leader of the Young-Toliver faction Wci-S 
a notorious bravo named Craig Toliver. To 
strengthen his power he became candidate for 


town marshal of Morehead, and he won the 
office by intimidation at the polls. Then, for 
two years, a bushwhacking war went on. Three 
times the Governor sent troops into Rowan 
County, but each time they found nothing but 
creeks and thickets to fight. Then he prevailed 
upon the clans to sign a truce and expatriate 
their chiefs for one year in distant States. 
Craig Toliver obeyed the order by going to 
Missouri, but returned several months before 
the expiration of his term, resumed office, and 
renewed his atrocities. In the warfare that 
ensued all the county officers were involved, 
from the judge down. 

In 1887, Proctor Knott, Governor of Ken- 
tucky, said in his message, of the Logan-Toliver 

"ThougH composed of only a small portion of the com- 
munity, these factions have succeeded by their violence in 
overawing and silencing the voice of the peaceful element, 
and in intimidating the officers of the law. Having their 
origin partly in party rancor, they have ceased to have any 
political significance, and have become contests of personal 
ambition and revenge; each party seeking apparently to pos- 
sess itself of the machinery of justice in order that it may, 
under the forms of law, seek the gratification of personal 

" During the present year the local leader of one of these 


factions came in possession of the office of police judge of 
the town of Morehead. Under color of the authority of 
that office, and sustained by an armed band of adherents, 
he exercised despotic sway over the town and its vicinage. 
He banished citizens who were obnoxious to him ; and, in 
one instance, after arresting two citizens who seem to have 
been guilty of no offense, he and his party, attended by a 
deputy sheriff of the county, murdered them in cold blood. 

" This act of atrocity fully aroused the community. A 
posse acting under the authority of a warrant from the 
county judge attacked the police judge and his adherents on 
the 22d of June last, killed several of their number, and 
put the rest to flight, and temporarily restored something 
like tranquility to the community. 

" The proceedings of the Circuit Court, which was held 
in August, were not calculated to inspire the citizens with 
confidence in securing justice. The report of the Adjutant 
General on this subject shows, from information derived 
* from representative men without reference to party affilia- 
tions,' that the judge of the Circuit Court seems so far 
under the influence of the reputed leader of one of the fac- 
tions as to permit such an organization of the grand juries 
as will effectually prevent the indictment of members of 
that faction for the most flagrant crimes." 

The posse here mentioned was organized by 
Daniel Boone Logan, a cousin of the two young 
men who had been murdered, a college grad- 
uate, and a lawyer of good standing. With the 
assent of the Governor, he gathered fifty to 
seventy-five picked men and armed them with 
the best modern rifles and revolvers. Some of 


the men were of his own clan; others he hired. 
His plan was to end the war by exterminating 
the Tolivers. 

The posse, led by Logan and the sheriff, 
suddenly surrounded the town of Morehead. 
Everybody gave in except Craig Toliver, Jay 
Toliver, Bud Toliver, and Hiram Cook, who 
barricaded themselves in the railroad station, 
where all of them were shot dead by the posse. 

Boone Logan was indicted for murder. At 
the trial he admitted the killings ; but he showed 
that the feud had cost the lives of not less than 
twenty-three men, that not one person had been 
legally punished for these murders, and that he 
had acted for the good of the public in ending 
this infamous struggle. The court accepted this 
view of the case, the community sustained it, and 
the " war " was closed. 

A feud, in the restricted sense here used, Is an 
armed conflict between families, each endeavor- 
ing to exterminate or drive out the other. It 
spreads swiftly not only to blood-kin and rela- 
tives by marriage, but to friends and retainers 
as well. It may lie dormant for a time, perhaps 
for a generation, and then burst forth with re- 
cruited strength long after its original cause has 
ceased to interest anyone, or maybe after it has 
been forgotten. 


Such feuds are by no means prevalent 
throughout the length and breadth of Appa- 
lachia, but are restricted mostly to certain well 
defined districts, of which the chief, in extent 
of territory as well as in the number and feroc- 
ity of its "wars," is the country round the upper 
waters of the Kentucky, Licking, Big Sandy, 
Tug, and Cumberland rivers, embracing many 
of the mountain counties of eastern Kentucky 
and adjoining parts of West Virginia, Old Vir- 
ginia, and Tennessee. In this thinly settled re- 
gion probably five hundred men have been slain 
in feuds since our centennial year, and only three 
of the murderers, so far as I know, have been 
executed by law. 

The active feudists, as a rule, include only a 
small part of the community; but public senti- 
ment, in feud districts, approves or at least tol- 
erates the vendetta, just as it does in Corsica or 
the Balkans. Those citizens who are not di- 
rectly implicated take pains to hear little and 
see less. They keep their mouths shut. They 
can neither be persuaded, bribed, nor coerced 
into informing or testifying against either side, 
but, on the contrary, will throw dust in the eyes 
of an investigator or try to stare him down. A 
jury composed of such men will not convict 


When a feud is raging, nobody outside the 
warring clans is in any danger at all. A stranger 
is safer in the heart of Feuddom than he would 
be in Chicago or New York, so long as he at- 
tends strictly to his own business, asks no ques- 
tions, and tells no " tales." If, on the contrary, 
he should express horror or curiosity, he is r*"- 
garded as a busybody or suspected as a spy, and 
is likely to be run out of the country or even 
" laywayed " and silenced forever. 

What causes feuds? 

Some of them start in mere drunken rows or 
in a dispute over a game of cards; others in 
quarrels over land boundaries or other property. 
The Hatfield-McCoy feud started because Ran- 
dolph McCoy penned up two wild hogs that 
were claimed by Floyd Hatfield. The spite 
over these hogs broke out two years later, and 
one partisan was killed from ambush. The feud 
itself began in 1882 over a debt of $1.75, with 
the hogs and the bushwhacking brought up in 
recrimination. Love of women is the primary 
cause, or the secondary aggravation, of many a 
feud. Some of the most widespread and dead- 
liest vendettas have originated in political strifes. 

It should be understood that national and 
state politics cut little or no figure in these 
"wars." Local politics in most of the mountain 


counties is merely a factional fight, in which 
family matters and business interests are in- 
volved, and the contest becomes bitterly per- 
sonal on that account. This explains most of 
the collusion or partisanship of county officers 
and their remissness in enforcing the law in 
murder cases. Family ties or political alliances 
override even the oath of office. 

Within the past year I have heard a deputy 
sheriff admit nonchalantly, on the stand, that 
when a homicide was committed near him, and 
he was the only officer in the vicinity, he advised 
the slayer to take to the mountains and " hide 
out." The judge questioned him sharply on this 
point, was reassured by the witness that it was 
so, and then — offered no comment at all. 
Within the same period, in another but not dis- 
tant court, a desperado from the Shelton Laurel, 
on trial for murder, admitted that he had shot 
six men since he moved over from Tennessee to 
North Carolina, and swore that while he was 
being held in jail pending trial for this last 
offense the sheriff permitted him to " keep a 
gun in his cell, drink whiskey in the jail, and 
eat at table with the family of the sheriff." 

Feuds spread not only through clan fealty but 
also because they offer excellent chances to pay 
off old scores. The mountaineer has a long 


memory. The average highlander is fiery and 
combative by nature, but at the same time cun- 
ning and vindictive. If publicly insulted he 
will strike at once, but if he feels wronged by 
some act that does not demand instant retalia- 
tion he will brood over it and plot patiently to 
get his enemy at a disadvantage. Some moun- 
taineers always fight fair; but many of them 
prefer to wait and watch quietly until the foe 
gets drunk and unwary, or until he is engaged 
in some illegal or scandalous act, or until he is 
known to be carrying a concealed weapon, 
whereupon he can be shot down unexpectedly 
and his assailant can " prove " by friendly wit- 
nesses that he acted in self-defense. So, if a 
man be involved in feud, he may be assassinated 
from ambush by someone who is not concerned 
in the clan trouble, but who has hated him for 
years on another account, and who knows that 
his death now will be charged up to the oppos- 
ing faction. 

From the earliest times it has been customary 
for our highlanders to go armed most of the 
time. This was a necessity in the old Indian- 
fighting days, and throughout the kukluxing and 
white-capping era following the Civil War. 
Such a habit, once formed, is hard to eradicate. 
Even to-day, in all parts of Appalachia that I 


am familiar with, most of the young men, I 
judge, and many of the older ones, carry con- 
cealed weapons. 

Among them I have never seen a stand-up 
and knock-down fight according to the rules of 
the ring. They have many rough-and-tumble 
brawls, in which they slug, wrestle, kick, bite, 
strangle, until one gets the other down, whereat 
the one on top continues to maul his victim until 
he cries "Enough!" Oftener a club or stone 
will be used in mad endeavor to knock the oppo- 
nent senseless at a blow. There is no compunc- 
tion about striking foul and very little about 
" double-teaming." Let us pause long enough to 
admit that this was the British and American 
way of man-handling, universal among the com- 
mon people, until well into the nineteenth cen- 
tury — and the mountaineers are still ignorant of 
any other, except fighting with weapons. 

Many of the young men carry home-made 
billies or " brass knucks." Every man and boy 
has at least a pocket-knife with serviceable blade. 
Fights with such crude weapons are frequent. 
There are few spectacles more sickening than 
two powerful but awkward men slashing each 
other with common jack-knives, though the fa- 
talities are much less frequent than in gun-fight- 
ing. I have known two old mountain preachers 


to draw knives on each other at the close of a 

The typical highland bravo always carries a 
revolver or an automatic pistol. This is likely 
to be a weapon of large bore and good stopping- 
power that is worn in a shoulder-holster con- 
cealed under the coat or vest or shirt. Most 
mountaineers are good shots with such arms, 
though not so deadly quick as the frontiersmen 
of our old-time West — in fact, they cannot be 
so quick without wearing the weapon exposed. 
When a highlander has time, he prefers to hold 
his pistol in both hands (left clasped over 
right) and aims it as he would a rifle. To a 
Westerner such gun practice looks absurd; but 
it is accurate, beyond question. Few mountain 
gun-fights fail to score at least one victim. 

The average mountain woman is as combative 
In spirit as her menfolk. She would despise any 
man who took insult or injury without showing 
fight. In fact, the woman, in many cases, delib- 
erately stirs up trouble out of vanity, or for the 
sheer excitement of it. Some of the older women 
display the ferocity of she-wolves. The mother 
of a large family said in my presence, with the 
calm earnestness of one fully experienced: " If 

a feller 'd treated me the way did 

I'd git me a forty-some-odd and shoot enough 


meat off o' his bones to feed a hound-dog a 
week." Three of this woman's brothers had 
been shot dead in frays. One of them killed the 
first husband of her sister, who married again, 
and whose second husband was killed by a man 
with whom she then tried a third matrimonial 
venture. Such matters may not be interesting in 
themselves, but they give one pause when he 
learns, in addition, that these people are re- 
ceived as friends and on a footing of equality 
by everybody in their community. 

That the mountaineers are fierce and relent- 
less in their feuds is beyond denial. A warfare 
of bushwhacking and assassination knows no 
refinements. Quarter is neither given nor ex- 
pected. Property, however, is not violated, and 
women are not often injured. There have been 
some atrocious exceptions. In the Hatfield- 
McCoy feud, Cap Hatfield and Tom Wallace 
attacked the latter's wife and her mother at 
night, dragged both women from bed, and Cap 
beat the old woman with a cow's tail that he 
had clipped off " jes' to see 'er jump." He broke 
two of the woman's ribs, leaving her injured for 
life, while Tom beat his wife. Later, on New 
Year's night, 1888, a gang of the Hatfields sur- 
rounded the home of Randolph McCoy, killed 
the eldest daughter, Allaphare, broke her moth- 


er's ribs and knocked her senseless with their 
guns, and killed a son, Calvin. In several in- 
stances women who fought in defense of their 
homes have been killed, as in the case of Mrs. 
Charles Daniels and her 16-year-old daughter, 
in Pike County, Kentucky, in November, 1909. 

The mountain women do not shrink from 
feuds, but on the contrary excite and cheer their 
men to desperate deeds, and sometimes fight by 
their side. In the French-Eversole feud, a 
woman, learning that her unarmed husband was 
besieged by his foes, seized his rifle, filled her 
apron with cartridges, rushed past the firing- 
line, and stood by her " old man " until he beat 
his assailants off. When men are "hiding out" 
in the laurel, it is the women's part, which they 
never shirk, to carry them food and information. 

In every feud each clan has a leader, a man of 
prominence either on account of his wealth or 
his political influence or his shrewdness or his 
physical prowess. This leader's orders are 
obeyed, while hostilities last, with the same 
unquestioning loyalty that the old Scotch re- 
tainer showed to his chieftain. Either the 
leader or someone acting for him supplies the 
men with food, with weapons if they need them, 
with ammunition, and with money. Sometimes 
mercenaries are hired. Mr. Fox says that " In 


one local war, I remember, four dollars per day 
were the wages of the fighting man, and the 
leader on one occasion, while besieging his en- 
emies — in the county court-house — tried to pur- 
chase a cannon, and from no other place than 
the State arsenal, and from no other personage 
than the Governor himself." In some of the 
feuds professional bravos have been employed 
who would assassinate, for a few dollars, any- 
body who was pointed out to them, provided he 
was alien to their own clans. 

The character of the highland bravo is pre- 
cisely that of the western " bad man " as pictured 
by Jed Parker in Stewart Edward White's Ari- 
zona Nights: 

" * There's a good deal of romance been written about the 
" bad man," and there's about the same amount of nonsense. 
The bad man is just a plain murderer, neither more nor 
less. He never does get into a real, good, plain, stand-up 
gun-fight if he can possibly help it. His killin's are done 
from behind a door, or when he's got his man dead to 
rights. There's Sam Cook. You've all heard of him. He 
had nerve, of course, and when he was backed into a corner 
he made good ; and he was sure sudden death with a gun. 
But when he went out for a man deliberate, he didn't take 
no special chances. . . . 

" * The point is that these yere bad men are a low-down, 
miserable proposition, and plain, cold-blooded murderers, 
willin' to wait for a sure thing, and without no compunc- 


tions whatever. The bad man takes you unawares, when 
you're sleepin', or talkin', or drinkin', or lookin' to see what 
for a day it's goin' to be, anyway. He don't give you no 
show, and sooner or later he's goin' to get you in the 
safest and easiest way for himself. There ain't no romance 
about that.' " 

And there is no romance about a real moun- 
tain feud. It is marked by suave treachery, 
" double-teaming," " laywaying," " blind-shoot- 
ing," and general heartlessness and brutality. If 
one side refuses to assassinate but seeks open, 
honorable combat, as has happened in several 
feuds, it is sure to be beaten. Whoever appeals 
to the law is sure to be beaten. In either case 
he is considered a fool or a coward by most 
of the countryside. Our highlander, untouched 
by the culture of the world about him, has never 
been taught the meaning of fair play. Magna- 
nimity to a fallen foe he would regard as sure 
proof of an addled brain. The motive of one 
who forgives his enemy is utterly beyond his 
comprehension. As for bushwhacking, " Hit's 
as fa'r for one as 'tis for t'other. You can't 
fight a man fa'r and squar who'll shoot you in 
the back. A pore man can't fight money in the 
courts." In this he is simply his ancient Scotch 
or English ancestor born over again. Such was 
the code of Jacobite Scotland and Tudor Eng- 


land. And back there is where our mountaineer 
belongs in the scale of human evolution. 

The feud, as Miss Miles puts it, is an outbreak 
of perverted family affection. Its mainspring is 
an honorable clan loyalty. It is a direct conse- 
quence of the clan organization that our moun- 
taineers preserve as it was handed down to them 
by their forefathers. The implacability of their 
vengeance, the treacheries they practice, the 
murders from ambush, are invariable features 
of clan warfare wherever and by whomsoever 
it is waged. They are not vices or crimes pe- 
culiar to the Kentuckian or the Corsican or the 
Sicilian or the Albanian or the Arab, but nat- 
ural results of clan government, which in turn 
is a result of isolation, of physical environment, 
of geographical position unfavorable to free 
intercourse and commerce with the world at 

The most hideous feature of the feud Is the 
shooting down of unarmed or unwarned men. 
Assassination, in our modern eyes, is the last and 
lowest infamy of a coward. Such it truly Is, 
when committed in the civilized society of our 
day. But in studying primitive races, or in 
going back along the line of our own ancestry 
to the civilized society of two centuries ago, we 
must face and acknowledge the strange paradox 


of a valorous and honorable people (according 
to their lights) who, in certain cases, practiced 
assassination without compunction and, in fact, 
with pride. History is red with it in those very 
" richest ages of our race " that Professor Shaler 
cited. Until a century or two ago, throughout 
Christendom, the secret murder of enemies was 
committed unblushingly by nobles and kings 
and prelates, often with a pious " Thus sayeth 
the Lord! " It was practiced by men valiant in 
open battle, and by those wise in the counsels 
'Of the realm. Take Scotland, for example, as 
pictured by a native writer. — 

" No tenet nor practice, no influence nor power nor prin- 
cipality in the Scotland of the past has outvied assassina- 
tion in ascendancy or in moment. Not theoretically, indeed, 
but practically, it occupied for centuries a distinct, almost a 
supreme, place in her political constitution — was, in fact, 
the understood if not recognized expedient always in reserve 
should other milder and more hallowed methods fail of 
accomplishing the desired political or, it might be, religious 
consummation. . . . 

" For centuries such justice as was exercised was hap- 
hazard and rude, and practically there was no law but the 
will of the stronger. Few, if any, of the great families 
but had their special feud; and feuds once originated sur- 
vived for ages; to forget them would have been treason to 
the dead, and wild purposes of revenge were handed down 
from generation to generation as a sacred legacy. 


"To take an enemy at a disadvantage was not deemed 
mean and contemptible, but — 

' Of all the arts in which the wise excel 
Nature's chief masterpiece.' 

To do it boldly and adroitly was to win a peculiar halo of 
renown; and thus assassination ceased to be the weapon of 
the avowed desperado, and came to be wielded unblushingly 
not only by so-called men of honor, but by the so-called re- 
ligious as well. A noble did not scruple to use it against 
his king, and the king himself felt no dishonor in resorting 
to it against a dangerous noble. James I. was hacked to 
death in the night by Sir Robert Graham; and James II, 
rid himself of the imperious and intriguing Douglas by sud- 
denly stabbing him while within his own royal palace under 
protection of a safe conduct. 

" The leaders of the Reformation discerned in assassina- 
tion (that of their enemies) the special 'work and judgment 
of God.' . . . When the assassination of Cardinal 
Beaton took place in 1546, all the savage details of it were 
set down by Knox with unbridled gusto. ' These things we 
wreat mearlie,' is his own ingenuous comment on his per- 

" The burden of George Buchanan's De Jure Regni apud 
Scotos is the lawfulness or righteousness of the removal — by 
assassination or any other fitting or convenient means — of 
incompetent kings, whether heinously wicked and tyranni- 
cal or merely unwise and weak of purpose; and he cites 
as a case in point and an ' example in time coming,' the 
murder of James III., which, if it were only on account of 
the assassin's hideous travesty of the last offices of the 
Church, would deserve to be held in unique and everlast- 


ing detestation." — (Henderson, Old-world Scotland, 182- 

Yet the Scots have always been a notably war- 
like and fearless race. So, too, are our southern 
mountaineers: in the Civil War and the Spanish 
War they sent a larger proportion of their men 
into the service than almost any other section 
of our country. 

Let us not overlook the fact that it demands 
courage of a high order for one to stay in a 
feud-infested district, conscious of being marked 
for slaughter — stay there month in and month 
out, year in and year out, not knowing at what 
moment he may be beset by overpowering num- 
bers, from what laurel thicket he may be shot, 
or at what hour of the night he may be called 
to his door and struck dead before his family. 
On the credit side of their valor, then, be it 
entered that few mountaineers will shrink from 
such ordeal when, even from no fault of their 
own, it is thrust upon them. 

The blood-feud is simply a horrible survival 
of medievalism. It is the highlander's misfor- 
tune to be stranded far out of the course of civil- 
ization. He is no worse than that bygone age 
that he really belongs to. In some ways he is 
better. He is far less cruel than his ancestors 
were — than our ancestors were. He does not 


torture with the tumbril, the stocks, the ducking- 
stool, the pillory, the branding-irons, the ear- 
pruners and nostril-shears and tongue-branks 
that were in everyday use under the old criminal 
code. He does not tie a woman to the cart's tail 
and publicly lash her bare back until it streams 
with blood, nor does he hang a man for picking 
somebody's pocket of twelve pence and a far- 
thing. He does not go slumming in bedlam, 
paying tuppence for the sport of mocking the 
maniacs until they rattle their chains in rage or 
horror. He does not turn executions of crimi- 
nals into public festivals. He never has been 
known to burn a condemned one at the stake. If 
he hangs a man, he does not first draw his en- 
trails and burn them before his eyes, with a mob 
crowding about to jeer the poor devil's flinching 
or to compliment him on his " nerve." Yet all 
these pleasantries were proper and legal in 
Christian Britain two centuries ago. 

This isolated and belated people who still 
carry on the blood-feud are not half so much 
to blame for such a savage survival as the rich, 
powerful, educated, twentieth-century nation 
that abandons them as if they were hopelessly 
derelict or wrecked. It took but a few decades 
to civilize Scotland. How much swifter and 
surer and easier are our means of enlightenment 


to-day ! Let us not forget that these high- 
landers are blood of our blood and bone of 
our bone ; for they are old-time Americans 
to a man, proud of their nationality, and 
passionately loyal to the flag that they, more 
than any other of us, according to their 
strength, have fought and suffered for. 



THE Southern Appalachian Mountains 
happen to be parceled out among eight 
different States, and for that reason they 
are seldom considered as a geographical unit. 
In the same way their inhabitants are thought 
of as Kentucky mountaineers or Carolina moun- 
taineers, and so on, but not often as a body of 
Appalachian mountaineers. And yet these in- 
habitants are as distinct an ethnographic group 
as the mountains themselves are a geographic 

The mountaineers are homogeneous so far as 
speech and manners and experiences and ideals 
can make them. In the aggregate they are nearly 
twice as numerous and cover twice as much ter- 
ritory as any one of the States among which 
they have been distributed; but in each of these 
States they occupy only the backyard, and gen- 
erally take back seats in the councils of the 
commonwealth. They have been fenced off 
from each other by political boundaries, and 



have no such coherence among themselves as 
would come from common leadership or a sense 
of common origin and mutual dependence. 

And they are a people without annals. Back 
of their grandfathers they have neither screed 
nor hearsay. " Borned in the kentry and ain't 
never been out o' hit " is all that most of them 
can say for themselves. Here and there one 
will assert, "My foreparents war principally 
Scotch," or " Us Bumgyarners [Baumgartners] 
was Dutch," but such traditions of a far-back 
foreign origin are uncommon. 

Who are these southern mountaineers? 
Whence came they? What is the secret of 
their belatedness and isolation? 

Before the Civil War they were seldom 
heard of in the outside world. Vaguely it was 
understood that the Appalachian highlands 
were occupied by a peculiar people called 
'' mountain whites." This odd name was given . 
them not to distinguish them from mountain 
negroes, for there were, practically, no moun- 
tain negroes; but to indicate their similarity, in 
social condition and economic status, to the 
^' poor whites" of the southern lowlands. It 
was assumed, on no historical basis whatever, 
that the highlanders came from the more ven- 
turesome or desperate element of the " poor 


whites," and differed from these only to the 
extent that environment had shaped them. 

Since this theory still prevails throughout the 
South, and is accepted generally elsewhere on 
its face value, it deserves just enough consid- 
eration to refute it. 

The unfortunate class known as poor whites 
in the South is descended mainly from the con- 
victs and indentured servants with which Eng- 
land supplied labor to the southern plantations 
before slavery days. The Cavaliers who found- 
ed and dominated southern society came from 
the conservative, the feudal element of England. 
Their character and training were essentially 
aristocratic and military. They were not town- 
dwellers, but masters of plantations. Their 
chief crop and article of export was tobacco. 
The culture of tobacco required an abundance 
of cheap and servile labor. 

On the plantations there was little demand 
for skilled labor, small room anywhere for a 
middle class of manufacturers and merchants, 
no inducement for independent farmers who 
would till with their own hands. Outside of 
the planters and a small professional class there 
was little employment offered save what was 
menial and degrading. Consequently the South 
was shunned, from the beginning, by British 


yeomanry and by the thrifty Teutons such as 
flocked into the northern provinces. The de- 
mand for menials on the plantations was met, 
then, by importing bond-servants from Great 
Britain. These were obtained in three ways. — 

1. Convicted criminals were deported to 
serve out their terms on the plantations. Some 
of these had been charged only with political 
ofifenses, and had the making of good citizens; 
but the greater number were rogues of the shift- 
less and petty delinquent order, such as were too 
lazy to work but not desperate enough to have 
incurred capital sentences. 

2. Boys and girls, chiefly from the slums of 
British seaports, were kidnapped and sold into 
temporary slavery on the plantations. 

3. Impoverished people who wished to emi- 
grate, but could not pay for their passage, vol- 
untarily sold their services for a term of years 
in return for transportation. 

Thus a considerable proportion of the white 
laborers of the South, in the seventeenth cen- 
tury, were criminals or ne'er-do-wells from the 
start. A large number of the others came from 
the dregs of society. As for the remainder, the 
companionships into which they were thrust, 
the brutalities to which they were subjected, 
their impotence before the law, the contempt 


in which they were held by the ruling caste, 
and the wretchedness of their prospect when 
released, were enough to undermine all but the 
strongest characters. Few ever succeeded in 
rising to respectable positions. 

Then came a vast social change. At a time 
when the laboring classes of Europe had 
achieved emancipation from serfdom, and feud- 
alism was overthrown, African slavery in our 
own Southland laid the foundation for a new 
feudalism. Southern society reverted to a type 
that the rest of the civilized world had out- 

The effect upon white labor was deplorable. 
The former bond-servants were now freedmen, 
it is true, but freedmen shorn of such oppor- 
tunities as they were fitted to use. Sprung from 
a more or less degraded stock, still branded by 
caste, untrained to any career demanding skill 
and intelligence, devitalized by evil habits of 
life, densely ignorant of the world around them, 
these, the naturally shiftless, were now turned 
out into the backwoods to shift for themselves. 
It was inevitable that most of them should 
degenerate even below the level of their former 
estate, for they were no longer forced into steady 

The white freedmen generally became squat- 


ters on such land as was unfit for tobacco, cotton, 
and other crops profitable to slave-owners. As 
the plantations expanded, these freedmen were 
pushed further and further back upon more and 
more sterile soil. They became " pine-land- 
ers " or " piney-woods-people," " sand-hillers," 
" knob-people," " corn-crackers " or " crackers,'"* 
gaining a bare subsistence from corn planted 
and " tended " chiefly by the women and chil- 
dren, from hogs running wild in the forest, and 
from desultory hunting and fishing. As a class, 
such whites lapsed into sloth and apathy. Even 
the institution of slavery they regarded with 
cynical tolerance, doubtless realizing that if it 
were not for the blacks they would be slaves 

Now these poor whites had nothing to do 
with settling the mountains. There was then, 
and still is, plenty of wild land for them in their 
native lowlands. They had neither the initia- 
tive nor the courage to seek a promised land far 
away among the unexplored and savage peaks 
of the western country. They were a brave 
enough folk in facing familiar dangers, but they 
had a terror of the unknown, being densely igno- 
rant and superstitious. The mountains, to those 
who ever heard of them, suggested nothing but 
laborious climbing amid mysterious and por- 


tentous perils. The poor whites were not high- 
landers by descent, nor had they a whit of the 
bold, self-reliant spirit of our western pioneers. 
They never entered Appalachia until after it 
had been won and settled by a far manlier race, 
and even then they went only in driblets. The 
theory that the southern mountains were peo- 
pled mainly by outcasts or refugees from old 
settlements in the lowlands rests on no other 
basis than imagination. 

How the mountains actually were settled is 
another and a very different story. — 

The first frontiersmen of the Appalachians 
were those Swiss and Palatine Germans who 
began flocking into Pennsylvania about 1682. 
They settled westward of the Quakers in the 
fertile limestone belts at the foot of the Blue 
Ridge and the Alleghanies. Here they formed 
the Quakers' buffer against the Indians, and, 
for some time, theirs were the westernmost set- 
tlements of British subjects in America. These 
Germans were of the Reformed or Lutheran 
faith. They were strongly democratic in a so- 
cial sense, and detested slavery. They were 
model farmers and many of them were skilled 
workmen at trades. 

Shortly after the tide of German immigra- 
tion set into Pennsylvania, another and quite 


different class of foreigners began to arrive in 
this province, attracted hither by the same 
lodestones that drew the Germans, namely, 
democratic institutions and religious liberty. 
These newcomers were the Scotch-Irish, or 
Ulstermen of Ireland. 

When James L, in 1607, confiscated the 
estates of the native Irish in six counties of 
Ulster, he planted them with Scotch and Eng- 
lish Presbyterians. These outsiders came to be 
known as Scotch-Irish, because they were 
chiefly of Scotch blood and had settled in Ire- 
land. The native Irish, to whom they were 
alien both by blood and by religion, detested 
them as usurpers, and fought them many a 
bloody battle. 

In time, as their leases in Ulster began to ex- 
pire, the Scotch-Irish themselves came in con- 
flict with the Crown, by whom they were perse- 
cuted and evicted. Then the Ulstermen began 
immigrating in large numbers to Pennsylvania. 
As Froude says, " In the two years that fol- 
lowed the Antrim evictions, thirty thousand 
Protestants left Ulster for a land where there 
was no legal robbery, and where those who 
sowed the seed could reap the harvest." 

So it was that these people became, in their 
turn, our westernmost frontiersmen, taking up 


land just outside the German settlements. Im- 
mediately they began to clash with the Indians, 
and there followed a long series of border wars, 
waged with extreme ferocity, in which some- 
times it is hard to say which side was most to 
blame. One thing, however, is certain: if any 
race was ordained to exterminate the Indians 
that race was the Scotch-Irish. 

They were a brave but hot-headed folk, as 
might be expected of a people who for a cen- 
tury had been planted amid hostile Hibernians. 
Justin Winsor describes them as having " all 
that excitable character which goes with a keen- 
minded adherence to original sin, total deprav- 
ity, predestination, and election," and as seeing 
" no use in an Indian but to be a target for 
their bullets." They were quick-witted as well 
as quick-tempered, rather visionary, imperious, 
and aggressive. 

Being by tradition and habit a border people 
the Scotch-Irish pushed to the extreme western 
fringe of settlement amid the AUeghanies. 
They were not over-solicitous about the quality 
of soil. When Arthur Lee, of Virginia, was 
telling Doctor Samuel Johnson, in London, 
of a colony of Scotch who had settled upon a 
particularly sterile tract in western Virginia, 
and had expressed his wonder that they should 


do so, Johnson replied, "Why, sir, all barren- 
ness is comparative: the Scotch will never know 
that it is barren." 

West of the Susquehanna, however, the land 
was so rocky and poor that even the Scotch shied 
at it, and so, when eastern Pennsylvania became 
crowded, the overflow of settlers passed not 
westward but southwestward, along the Cum.- 
berland Valley, into western Maryland, and 
then into the Shenandoah and those other long, 
narrow, parallel valleys of western Virginia 
that we noted in our first chapter. This west- 
ern region still lay unoccupied and scarcely 
known by the Virginians themselves. Its fer- 
tile lands were discovered by Pennsylvania 
Dutchmen. The first house in western Virginia 
was erected by one of them, Joist Hite, and he 
established a colony of his people near the fu- 
ture site of Winchester. A majority of those 
who settled in the eastern part of the Shenan- 
doah Valley were Pennsylvania Dutch, while 
the Scotch-Irish, following in their train, 
pushed a little to the west of them and occupied 
more exposed positions. There were represen- 
tatives of other races along the border: English, 
Irish, French Huguenots, and so on; but every- 
where the Scotch-Irish and Germans predomi- 


And the southwestward movement, once 
started, never stopped. So there went on a 
gradual but sure progress of northern peoples 
across the Potomac, up the Shenandoah, across 
the Staunton, the Dan, the Yadkin, until the 
western piedmont and foot-hill region of Caro- 
lina was similarly settled, chiefly by Pennsyl- 

The archivist of North Carolina, the late 
William L. Saunders, Secretary of State, said 
in one of his historical sketches that " to Lan- 
caster and York counties, in Pennsylvania, 
North Carolina owes more of her population 
than to any other known part of the world." 
He called attention to the interesting fact that 
when the North Carolina boys of Scotch-Irish 
and Pennsylvania Dutch descent followed Lee 
into Pennsylvania in the Gettysburg campaign, 
they were returning to the homes of their an- 
cestors, by precisely the same route that those 
ancestors had taken in going south. 

Among those who made the long trek from 
Pennsylvania southward in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, were Daniel Boone and the ancestors of 
David Crockett, Samuel Houston, John C. 
Calhoun, "Stonewall" Jackson, and Abraham 
Lincoln. Boone and the Lincolns, although 
English themselves, had been neighbors in 


Berks County, one of the most German parts 
of all eastern Pennsylvania. 

So the western piedmont and the mountains 
were settled neither by Cavaliers nor by poor 
whites, but by a radically distinct and even 
antagonistic people who are appropriately 
called the Roundheads of the South. These 
Roundheads had little or nothing to do with 
slavery, detested the state church, loathed tithes, 
and distrusted all authority save that of conspic- 
uous merit and natural justice. The first char- 
acteristic that these pioneers developed was an 
intense individualism. The strong and even 
violent independence that made them forsake 
all the comforts of civilization and prefer the 
wild freedom of the border was fanned at times 
into turbulence and riot; but it blazed forth at 
a happy time for this country when our liberties 
were imperilled. 

Daniel Boone first appears in history when, 
from his new home on the Yadkin, he crossed 
the Blue Ridge and the Unakas into that part 
of western Carolina which is now eastern Ten- 
nessee. He was exploring the Watauga region 
as early as 1760. Both British and French In- 
dian traders and soldiers had been in this region 
before him, but had left few marks of their 
wanderings. In 1761 a party of hunters from 


Pennsylvania and contiguous counties of Vir- 
ginia, piloted by Boone, began to use this re- 
gion as a hunting-ground, on account of the 
great abundance of game. From them, and 
especially from Boone, the fame of its attrac- 
tions spread to the settlements on the eastern 
slope of the mountains, and in the winter of 
1768-69 the first permanent occupation of east- 
ern Tennessee was made by a few families from 
North Carolina. 

About this time there broke out in Carolina 
a struggle between the independent settlers of 
the piedmont and the rich trading and official 
class of the coast. The former rose in bodies 
under the name of Regulators and a battle fol- 
lowed in which they were defeated. To escape 
from the persecutions of the aristocracy, many 
of the Regulators and their friends crossed the 
Appalachian Mountains and built their cabins 
in the Watauga region. Here, in 1772, there 
was established by these " rebels " the first re- 
public in America, based upon a written consti- 
tution " the first ever adopted by a community 
of American-born freemen," Of these pioneers 
in " The Winning of the West," Theodore 
Roosevelt says: "As in western Virginia the 
first settlers came, for the most part, from Penn- 
sylvania, so, in turn, in what was then western 


North Carolina, and is now eastern Tennessee, 
the first settlers came mainly from Virginia, 
and indeed, in great part, from this same Penn- 
sylvania stock." 

Boone first visited Kentucky, on a hunting 
trip, in 1769. Six years later he began to colo- 
nize it, in flat defiance of the British govern- 
ment, and in the face of a menacing proclama- 
tion from the royal governor of North Carolina. 
On the Kentucky River, three days after the 
battle of Lexington, the flag of the new colony 
of Transylvania was run up on his fort at 
Boonesborough. It was not until the following 
August that these "rebels of Kentuck" heard 
of the signing of the Declaration of Independ- 
ence, and celebrated it with shrill warwhoops 
around a bonfire in the center of their stockade. 

Such was the stuff of which the Appalachian 
frontiersmen were made. They were the first 
Americans to cut loose entirely from the sea- 
board and fall back upon their own resources. 
They were the first to establish governments of 
their own, in defiance of king and aristocracy. 
Says John Fiske: 

"Jefferson is often called the father of modern American 
democracy; in a certain sense the Shenandoah Valley and 
adjacent Appalachian regions may be called its cradle. In 
that rude frontier society, life assumed many new aspects. 


old customs were forgotten, old distinctions abolished, social 
equality acquired even more importance than unchecked in- 
dividualism. The notions, sometimes crude and noxious, 
sometimes just and wholesome, which characterized Jelter- 
sonian democracy, flourished greatly on the frontier and 
have thence been propagated eastward through the older 
communities, affecting their legislation and their politics 
more or less according to frequency of contact and inter- 
course. Massachusetts, relatively remote and relatively an- 
cient, has been perhaps least affected by this group of ideas, 
but all parts of the United States have felt its influence 
powerfully. This phase of democracy, which is destined to 
continue so long as frontier life retains any importance, can 
nowhere be so well studied in its beginnings as among the 
Presbyterian population of the Appalachian region in the 
l8th century." 

During the Revolution, the Appalachian 
frontier was held by a double line of the men 
whom we have been considering: one line east 
of the mountains, and the other west of them. 
The mountain region itself remained almost 
uninhabited by whites, because the pioneers 
who crossed it were seeking better hunting 
grounds and farmsteads than the mountains 
afforded. It was not until the buffalo and elk 
and beaver had been driven out of Tennessee 
and Kentucky, and those rolling savannahs were 
being fenced and tilled, that much attention was 
given to the mountains proper. Then small 


companies of hunters and trappers from both 
east and west began to move into the highlands 
and settle there. 

These explorers, pushing outward from the 
cross-mountain trails in every direction, found 
many interesting things that had been over- 
looked in the scurry of migration westward. 
They discovered fair river valleys and rich 
coves, adapted to tillage, which soon attracted 
settlers of a better class; and so, gradually, the 
mountain solitudes began to echo with the ring 
of axes and the lowing of herds. By 1830 about 
a million permanent settlers occupied the south- 
ern Appalachians. Naturally, most of them 
came from adjoining regions — from the foot of 
the Blue Ridge on one side and from the foot 
of the Unakas or of the Cumberlands on the 
other, and hence they were chiefly of the same 
frontier stock that we have been describing. 
No colonies of farmers from a distance ever 
have been imported into the mountains, down 
to our own day. 

Deterioration of the mountain people began 
as soon as population began to press upon the 
limits of subsistence. At first, naturally, the 
best people among the mountaineers were at- 
tracted to the best lands. And there to-day, In 
the generous river valleys, we find a class of 


citizens superior to the average mountaineers 
that we have been considering in this book. 
But the number and extent of such valleys was 
narrowly limited. The United States topog- 
raphers report that in Appalachia, as a whole, 
the mountain slopes occupy 90 per cent, of the 
total area, and that 85 per cent, of the land has 
a steeper slope than one foot in five. So, as the 
years passed, a larger and larger proportion of 
the highlanders was forced back along the 
creek branches and up along the steep hillsides 
to " scrabble " for a living. 

It will be asked. Why did not this overplus 
do as other crowded Americans did: move west? 

First, because they were so immured in the 
mountains, so utterly cut off from communica- 
tion with the outer world, that they did not 
know anything about the opportunities offered 
new settlers in far-away lands. Moving " west" 
to them would have meant merely going a few 
days' wagon-travel down into the lowlands of 
Kentucky or Tennessee, which already were 
thickly settled by a people of very different 
social class. Here they could not hope to be 
anything but tenants or menials, ruled over by 
proprietors or bosses — and they would die 
rather than endure such treatment. As for the 
new lands of the farther West, there was scarce 


a peasant in Ireland or In Scandinavia but knew 
more about them than did the southern moun- 

Second, because they were passionately at- 
tached to their homes and kindred, to their own 
old-fashioned ways. The mountaineer shrinks 
from lowland society as he does from the water 
and the climate of such regions. He is never at 
ease until back with his home-folks, foot-loose 
and free. 

Third, because there was nothing In his en- 
vironment to arouse ambition. The hard, hope- 
less life of the mountain farm, sustained only 
by a meager and ill-cooked diet, begat laziness 
and shiftless unconcern. 

Finally, the poverty of the hillside farmers 
and branch-water people was so extreme that 
they could not gather funds to emigrate with. 
There were no industries to which a man might 
turn and earn ready money, no markets in which 
he could sell a surplus from the farm. 

So, while the transmontane settlers grew rap- 
idly in wealth and culture, their kinsfolk back 
in the mountains either stood still or retro- 
graded, and the contrast was due not nearly 
so much to any difference of capacity as to a 
law of Nature that dooms an Isolated and im- 
poverished people to deterioration. 


Beyond this, it is not to be overlooked that 
the mountains were cursed with a considerable 
incubus of naturally weak or depraved charac- 
ters, not lowland " poor whites," but a miscel- 
laneous flotsam from all quarters, which, after 
more or less circling round and round, was 
drawn into the stagnant eddy of highland so- 
ciety as derelicts drift into the Sargasso Sea. 
In the train of western immigration there were 
some feeble souls who never got across the 
mountains. These have been described tersely 
as the men who lost heart on account of a 
broken axle. 

The anemic element thus introduced is less 
noticeable in Kentucky than in Virginia and 
the States farther south — for the reason, no 
doubt, that it took at least two axles to reach 
Kentucky — but it exists in all parts of Appa- 
lachia. Moreover, the vast roughs of the moun- 
tain region offered harborage for outlaws, des- 
peradoes of the border, and here many of them 
settled and propagated their kind. In the back- 
woods one cannot choose his neighbors. All are 
on equal footing. Hence the contagion of crime 
and shiftlessness spreads to decent families and 
tends to undermine them. 

We can understand, then, how it happened 
in many cases that highland families founded 


by well-informed and thrifty pioneers deteri- 
orated into illiterate and idle triflers, all run 
down at heels. Lincoln's family is an apt illus- 
tration. His grandfather sold his Virginia 
farms for seventeen thousand dollars and 
bought large tracts of land in Kentucky. But 
Abraham Lincoln's father set up housekeeping 
in a shed, later built a log hut of one room 
without doors or windows (although he was a 
carpenter by trade), then moved to another 
cabin a little better, tired of it, moved over into 
Indiana, and made his family spend the winter 
in a half-faced camp, where they were saved 
from freezing by keeping up a great log fire 
in front of the lean-to through days and nights 
when the temperature was far below zero. The 
Lincolns were not mountaineers, but they were 
of the same stock, and were subjected to much 
the same vicissitudes. 

So the southern highlanders languished in 
isolation, sunk in a Rip Van Winkle sleep, 
until aroused by the thunder-crash of the Civil 
War. Let John Fox tell the extraordinary 
result of that awakening. — 

" The American mountaineer was discovered, I say, at 
the beginning of the war, when the Confederate leaders 
were counting on the presumption that Mason and Dixon's 


Line was the dividing line between the North and South, 
and formed, therefore, the plan of marching an army from 
Wheeling, in West Virginia, to some point on the Lakes, 
and thus dissevering the North at one blow. 

" The plan seemed so feasible that it is said to have mate- 
rially aided the sale of Confederate bonds in England, But 
when Captain Garnett, a West Point graduate, started to 
carry it out, he got no farther than Harper's Ferry. When 
he struck the mountains, he struck enemies who shot at his 
men from ambush, cut down bridges before him, carried the 
news of his march to the Federals, and Garnett himself fell 
with a bullet from a mountaineer's squirrel rifle at Harper's 

" Then the South began to realize what a long, lean, 
powerful arm of the Union it was that the southern moun- 
taineer stretched through its very vitals ; for that arm helped 
hold Kentucky in the Union by giving preponderance to the 
Union sympathizers In the Blue-grass; it kept the east 
Tennesseans loyal to the man; it made West Virginia, as 
the phrase goes, ' secede from secession ' ; it drew out a horde 
of one hundred thousand volunteers, when Lincoln called 
for troops, depleting Jackson County, Kentucky, for In- 
stance, of every male under sixty years of age and over 
fifteen; and it raised a hostile barrier between the armies of 
the coast and the armies of the Mississippi. The North has 
never realized, perhaps, what it owes for its victory to this 
non-slaveholding southern mountaineer." 

President Frost, of Berea College, says: 

"The loyalty of this region in the Civil War was a sur- 
prise to both northern and southern statesmen. The moun- 


tain people owned land but did not own slaves, and the 
national feeling of the revolutionary period had not spent 
its force among them. Their services in West Virginia and 
east Tennessee are perhaps generally known. But very few 
know or remember that the whole mountain region was 
loyal [except where conscripted]. General Carl Schurz had 
soldiers enlisted in the mountains of Alabama, and the writer 
has recently seen a letter written by the Confederate Gov- 
ernor of South Carolina in which he relates to General 
Hardee the troubles caused by Union sentiment in the moun- 
tain counties. 

" It is pathetic to know how these mountain regiments 
disbanded with no poet or historian or monument to per- 
petuate the memory of their valor. The very flag that was 
first on Lookout Mountain and 'waved above the clouds' 
was lost to fame in an obscure mountain home until Berea 
discovered and rescued it from oblivion and destruction." 

It may be added that no other part of our 
country sufTered longer or more severely from 
the aftermath of war. Throughout that strug- 
gle the mountain region was a nest for bush- 
whackers and bandits that preyed upon the aged 
and defenseless who were left at home, and 
thus there was left an evil legacy of neighbor- 
hood wrongs and private grudges. Most of the 
mountain counties had Incurred the bitter hos- 
tility of their own States by standing loyal to 
the Union. After Appomattox they were cast 
back into a worse isolation than they had ever 
known. Most unfortunately, too, the Federal 


Government, at this juncture, instead of inter- 
posing to restore law and order in the high- 
lands, turned the loyalty of the mountaineers 
into outlawry, as in 1794, by imposing a pro- 
hibitive excise tax upon their chief merchant- 
able commodity. 

Left, then, to their own devices, unchecked 
by any stronger arm, inflamed by a multitude 
of personal wrongs, habituated to the shedding 
of human blood, contemptuous of State laws 
that did not reach them, enraged by Federal 
acts that impugned, as they thought, an inalien- 
able right of man, it was inevitable that this 
fiery and vindictive race should fall speedily 
into warring among themselves. Old scores 
were now to be wiped out in a reign of terror. 
The open combat of bannered war was turned 
into the secret ferocity of family feuds. 

But the mountaineers of to-day are face to 
face with a mighty change. The feud epoch 
has ceased throughout the greater part of Appa- 
lachia. A new era dawns. Everywhere the 
highways of civilization are pushing into re- 
mote mountain fastnesses. Vast enterprises are 
being installed. The timber and the minerals 
are being garnered. The mighty waterpower 
that has been running to waste since these moun- 
tains rose from the primal sea is now about to 


be harnessed in the service of man. Along with 
this economic revolution will come, inevitably, 
good schools, newspapers, a finer and more lib- 
eral social life. The highlandsr. at last, is to 
be caught up in the current of human progress. 



THE southern mountaineers are pre-emi- 
nently a rural folk. When the twentieth 
century opened, only four per cent, of 
them dwelt in cities of 8,000 inhabitants and 
upwards. There were but seven such cities in 
all Appalachia — a region larger than England 
and Scotland combined — and these owed their 
development to outside influences. Only "-j^ 
out of 186 mountain counties had towns of 
1,000 and upwards. 

Our highlanders are the most homogeneous 
people in the United States. In 1900, out of a 
total population of 3,039,835, there were only 
18,617 of foreign birth. This includes the cities 
and industrial camps. Back in the mountains, 
a man using any other tongue than English, or 
speaking broken English, was regarded as a 
freak. Nine mountain counties of Virginia, 
four of West Virginia, fifteen of Kentucky, ten 

of Tennessee, nine of North Carolina, eight of 



Georgia, two of Alabama, and one of South 
Carolina had less than ten foreign-born resi- 
dents each. Three of them had none at all. 

Compare the North Atlantic states. In this 
same census year, 57 per cent, of their people 
lived in cities of 8,000 and upwards. As for 
foreigners — the one city of Fall River, Mass., 
with 104,863 inhabitants, had 50,042 of foreign 

The mountains proper are free not only from 
foreigners but from negroes as well. There are 
many blacks in the larger valleys and towns, but 
throughout most of Appalachia the population 
is almost exclusively white. In 1900, Jackson 
County, Ky. (the same that sent every one of its 
sons into the Union army who could bear arms) , 
had only nineteen negroes among 10,542 whites; 
Johnson County, Ky., only one black resident 
among 13,729 whites; Dickenson County, Va., 
not a single negro within its borders. 

In many mountain settlements negroes are 
not allowed to tarry. It has been assumed that 
this prejudice against colored folk had its origin 
far back in the time when " poor whites " found 
themselves thrust aside by competition with slave 
labor. This is an error. Our mountaineers 
never had to compete with slavery. Few of 
them knew anything about it except from hear- 


say. Their dislike of negroes is simply an 
instinctive racial antipathy, plus a contempt for 
anyone who submits to servile conditions. A 
neighbor in the Smokies said to me: " I b'lieve 
in treatin' niggers squar. The Bible says they're 
human — leastways some says it does — and so 
there'd orter be a place for them. But it's some 
place else — not around me! " That is the whole 
thing in a nutshell. 

Here, then, is Appalachia: one of the great 
land-locked areas of the globe, more English in 
speech than Britain itself, more American by 
blood than any other part of America, encom- 
passed by a high-tensioned civilization, yet less 
affected to-day by modern ideas, less cognizant 
of modern progress, than any other part of the 
English-speaking world. 

Of course, such an anomaly cannot continue. 
Commercialism has discovered the mountains 
at last, and no sentiment, however honest, how- 
ever hallowed, can keep it out. The transfor- 
mation is swift. Suddenly the mountaineer is 
awakened from his eighteenth-century bed by 
the blare of steam v^histles and the boom of 
dynamite. He sees his forests leveled and 
whisked away; his rivers dammed by concrete 
walls and shot into turbines that outpower all 
the horses in Appalachia. He is dazed by elec- 


trie lights, nonplussed by speaking wires, awed 
by vast transfers of property, incensed by rude 
demands. Aroused, now, and wide-eyed, he 
realizes with sinking heart that here is a sudden 
end of that Old Dispensation under which he 
and his ancestors were born, the beginning of 
a New Order that heeds him and his neighbors 
not a whit. 

All this insults his conservatism. The old 
way was the established order of the universe: 
to change it is fairly impious. What is the good 
of all this fuss and fury? That fifty-story build- 
ing they tell about, in their big city — what is it 
but another Tower of Babel? And these silly, 
stuck-up strangers who brag and brag about 
" modern improvements " — what are they, under 
their fine manners and fine clothes? Hirelings 
all. Shrewdly he observes them in their rela- 
tions to each other. — 

" Each man is some man's servant ; every soul 
Is by some other's presence quite discrowned." 

Proudly he contrasts his ragged self: he who 
never has acknowledged a superior, never has 
taken an order from living man, save as a patriot 
in time of war. And he turns upon his heel. 
Yet, before he can fairly credit it as a reality, 


the lands around his own home are bought up 
by corporations. All about him, slash, crash, go 
the devastating forces. His old neighbors van- 
ish. New and unwelcome ones swarm in. He 
is crowded, but ignored. His hard-earned patri- 
mony is robbed of all that made it precious: its 
home-like seclusion, independence, dignity. He 
sells out, and moves away to some uninvaded 
place where he " will not be bothered." 

" I don't like these improYements/' said an 
old mountaineer to me, " Some calls them 
* progress,' and says they put money to circu- 
latin'. So they do; but who gits it?'* 

There is a class of highlanders more sanguine, 
more adaptable, that welcomes all outsiders who 
come with skill and capital to develop their 
country. Many of these are shrewd traders in 
merchandise or in real estate, or they are capa- 
ble foremen who can handle native labor much 
better than any strangers could. Such men 
naturally profit by the change. 

Others, deluded by what seems easy money, 
sell their little homesteads for just enough cash 
to set them up as laborers In town or camp. 
Being untrained to any trade, they can get only 
the lowest wages, which are quickly dissipated 
in rent and in foods that formerly they raised 
for themselves. Unused to continuous labor, 


they irk under its discipline, drop out, and fall 
into desultory habits. Meantime false ambitions 
arise, especially among the womenfolk. Store 
credit soon runs such a family in debt. 

" When I was a young man," said one of my 
neighbors, " the traders never thought of bring- 
in' meal in here. If a man run out of meal, why, 
he was out, and he had to live on 'taters or some- 
thin' else. Nowadays we dress better, and live 
better, but some other feller allers has his hands 
in our pockets." 

Then it is "good-by" to the old independ- 
ence that made such characters manly. En- 
meshed in obligations that they cannot meet, 
they struggle vainly, brood hopelessly, and lose 
that dearest of all possessions, their self-respect. 
Servility is literal hell to a mountaineer, and 
when it is forced upon him he turns into a mean, 
underhanded, slinking fellow, easily tempted 
into crime. 

The curse of our invading civilization is that 
its vanguard is composed of men who care noth- 
ing for the welfare of the people they dispossess. 
A northern lumberman admitted to me, with 
frankness unusual in his class, that " All we 
want here Is to get the most we can out of this 
country, as quick as we can, and then get out." 
This IS all we can expect of those who exploit 


raw materials, or of manufactures that employ 
only cheap labor. Until we have industries that 
demand skilled workmen, and until manual 
training schools are established in the moun- 
tains, we may look for deterioration, rather than 
betterment, of those highlanders who leave their 

All who know the mountaineers intimately 
have observed that the sudden inroad of com- 
mercialism has a bad effect upon them. As 
President Frost says, " Ruthless change is 
knocking at the door of every mountain cabin. 
The jackals of civlization have already abused 
the confidence of many a highland home. The 
lumber, coal, and mineral wealth of the moun- 
tains is to be possessed, and the unprincipled 
vanguard of commercialism can easily debauch 
a simple people. The question is whether the 
mountain people can be enlightened and guided 
so that they can have a part in the development 
of their own country, or whether they must give 
place to foreigners and melt away like so many 

It is easy to say that the fittest will survive. 
But the fittest for what? Miss Miles answers: 
" I have heard it said that civilization, when it 
touches the people of the backwoods, acts as a 
useful precipitant in thus sending the dregs to 


the bottom. As a matter of fact, it is only the 
shrewder and more determined, not the truly fit, 
that survive the struggle. Among these very 
submerged ones, reduced to dependence on an 
alien people, there are thousands who inherit 
the skill of their forefathers who fashioned their 
own locks, musical instruments, and guns. And 
these very women who are breaking their health 
and spirit over a thankless tub of suds ought 
surely to turn their talents to better account, 
ought to be designing and weaving coverlets and 
Roman-striped rugs, or ' piecing ' the quilt pat- 
terns now so popular. Need these razors be 
used to cut grindstones? Must this free folk 
who are in many ways the truest Americans of 
America be brought under the yoke of caste 
division, to the degradation of all their finer 
qualities, merely for lack of the right work 
to do?" 

There are some who would have it so; who 
would calmly write for these our own kindred, 
as for the Indians, fuerunt — their day is past. 
In a History of Southern Literature, .vritten 
not long ago by a professor in the University of 
Virginia, a sketch of Miss Murfree's work 
closes with these words : '' There [at Beersheba 
Springs, Tenn.] it was that she first studied the 
curious type of humanity, the Tennessee moun- 


taineer, a people so ignorant, so superstitious, so 
far behind the world of to-day as to excite won- 
der and even pity in all who see them. . . . 
[She]' is telling the story of a people who, in 
these opening years of the 20th century, wander 
on through their limited range of life much as 
their ancestors for generations have wandered. 
They, too, will some time vanish — the sooner 
the better." 

One cannot read such a sentiment without 
wonder and even pity for the ignorance of his- 
tory and of human nature that it discloses. Is 
the case of our mountaineers so much worse than 
that of the Scotch highlanders of two centuries 
ago? We know that those Scotchmen did not 
" vanish — the quicker the better." What were 
they before civilization reached them? Let us 
open the ready pages of Macaulay. — 

** It is not easy for a modern Englishman ... to 
believe that, in the time of his great-grandfathers, Saint 
James's Street had as little connection with the Grampians 
as with the Andes. Yet so it was. In the south of our 
island scarcely anything was known about the Celtic part 
of Scotland; and what was known excited no feeling but 
contempt and loathing. . . . 

" It is not strange that the Wild Scotch, as they were 
sometimes called, should, in the 17th century, have been 
considered by the Saxons as mere savages. But it is surely 


strange that, considered as savages, they should not have 
been objects of interest and curiosity. The English were 
then abundantly inquisitive about the manners of rude na- 
tions separated from our island by great continents and 
oceans. Numerous books were printed describing the laws, 
the superstitions, the cabins, the repasts, the dresses, the 
marriages, the funerals of Laplanders and Hottentots, Mo- 
hawks and Malays. The plays and poems of that age are 
full of allusions to the usages of the black men of Africa 
and the red men of America. The only barbarian about 
whom there was no wish to have any information was the 
Highlander. . . . 

" While the old Gaelic institutions were in full vigor, 
no account of them was given by any observer qualified to 
judge of them fairly. Had such an observer studied the 
character of the Highlanders, he would doubtless have 
found in it closely intermingled the good and the bad qual- 
ities of an uncivilized nation. He would have found that 
the people had no love for their country or for their king, 
that they had no attachment to any commonwealth larger 
than the clan, or to any magistrate superior to the chief. 
He would have found that life was governed by a code of 
morality and honor widely different from that which is 
established in peaceful and prosperous societies. He would 
have learned that a stab in the back, or a shot from behind 
a fragment of rock, were approved modes of taking satis- 
faction for insults. He would have heard men relate boast- 
fully how they or their fathers had wracked on hereditary 
enemies in a neighboring valley such vengeance as would 
have made old soldiers of the Thirty Years' War shudder. 

"He would have found that robbery was held to be a 


calling not merely innocent but honorable. He would have 
seen, wherever he turned, that dislike of steady industry, 
and that disposition to throw on the weaker sex the heavi- 
est part of manual labor, which are characteristic of sav- 
ages. He would have been struck by the spectacle of ath- 
letic men basking in the sun, angling for salmon, or taking 
aim at grouse, while their aged mothers, their pregnant 
wives, their tender daughters, were reaping the scanty har- 
vest of oats. Nor did the women repine at their hard lot. 
In their view it was quite fit that a man, especially if he 
assumed the aristocratic title of Duinhe Wassel and adorned 
his bonnet with the eagle's feather, should take his ease, 
except when he was fighting, hunting, or marauding. To 
mention the name of such a man in connection with com- 
merce or with any mechanical art was an insult. Agricul- 
ture was indeed less despised. Yet a highborn warrior was 
much more becomingly employed in plundering the land of 
others than in tilling his own. 

" The religion of the greater part of the Highlands was 
a rude mixture of Popery and Paganism. The symbol of 
redemption was associated with heathen sacrifices and incan- 
tations. Baptised men poured libations of ale on one 
Daemon, and set out drink offerings of milk for another. 
Seers wrapped themselves up in bulls' hides, and awaited, 
in that vesture, the inspiration which was to reveal the fu- 
ture. Even among those minstrels and genealogists whose 
hereditary vocation was to preserve the memory of past 
events, an enquirer would have found very few who could 
read. In truth, he might easily have journeyed from sea 
to sea without discovering a page of Gaelic printed or 

"The price which he would have had to pay for his 


knowledge of the country would have been heavy. He 
would have had to endure hardships as great as if he had 
sojourned among the Esquimaux or the Samoyeds. Here 
and there, indeed, at the castle of some great lord who had 
a seat in the Parliament and Privy Council, and who was 
accustomed to pass a large part of his life in the cities of 
the South, might have been found wigs and embroidered 
coats, plate and fine linen, lace and jewels, French dishes 
and French wines. But, in general, the traveler would 
have been forced to content himself with very different 
quarters. In many dwellings the furniture, the food, the 
clothing, nay, the very hair and skin of his hosts, would 
have put his philosophy to the proof. His lodging would 
sometimes have been in a hut of which every nook would 
have swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an 
atmosphere thick with peat smoke, and foul with a hundred 
exhalations. At supper grain fit only for horses would have 
been set before him, accompanied with a cake of blood 
drawn from living cows. Some of the company with whom 
he would have feasted would have been covered with cuta- 
neous eruptions, and others would have been smeared with 
tar like sheep. His couch would have been the bare earth, 
dry or wet as the weather might be; and from that couch 
he would have risen half poisoned with stench, half blind 
with the reek of turf, and half mad with the itch. 

This is not an attractive picture. And yet an enlight- 
ened and dispassionate observer would have found in the 
character and manners of this rude people something which 
might well excite admiration and a good hope. Their 
courage was what great exploits achieved in all the four 
quarters of the globe have since proved it to be. Their 
intense attachment to their own tribe and to their own 


patriarch, though politically a great evil, partook of the 
nature of virtue. The sentiment was misdirected and ill 
regulated; but still it was heroic. There must be some 
elevation of soul in a man who loves the society of which 
he is a member and the leader whom he follows with a 
love stronger than the love of life. It was true that the 
Highlander had few scruples about shedding the blood of 
an enemy; but it was not less true that he had high no- 
tions of the duty of observing faith to allies and hospitality 
to guests. It was true that his predatory habits were most 
pernicious to the commonwealth. Yet those erred greatly 
who imagined that he bore any resemblance to villains who, 
in rich and well governed communities, live by stealing. 
When he drove before him the herds of Lowland farmers 
up the pass which led to his native glen, he no more con- 
sidered himself as a thief than the Raleighs and Drakes 
considered themselves as thieves when they divided the 
cargoes of Spanish galleons. He was a warrior seizing 
lawful prize of war, of war never once intermitted during 
the thirty-five generations which had passed away since the 
Teutonic invaders had driven the children of the soil to 
the mountains. . . . 

" His inordinate pride of birth and his contempt for labor 
and trade were indeed great weaknesses, and had done far 
more than the inclemency of the air and the sterility of 
the soil to keep his country poor and rude. Yet even here 
there was some compensation. It must in fairness be ac- 
knowledged that the patrician virtues were not less widely 
diffused among the population of the Highlands than the 
patrician vices. As there was no other part of the island 
where men, sordidly clothed, lodged, and fed, indulged them- 
selves to such a degree in the idle, sauntering habits of an 


aristocracy, so there was no other part of the island where 
such men had in such a degree the better qualities of an 
aristocracy, grace and dignity of manner, self-respect, and 
that noble sensibility which makes dishonor more terrible 
than death. A gentleman of Skye or Lochaber, whose 
clothes were begrimed with the accumulated filth of years, 
and whose hovel smelt worse than an English hogstye, 
would often do the honors of that hovel with a lofty cour- 
tesy worthy of the splendid circle of Versailles. Though 
he had as little book-learning as the most stupid plough- 
boys of England, it would have been a great error to put 
him in the same intellectual rank with such ploughboys. 
It is indeed only by reading that men can become pro- 
foundly acquainted with any science. But the arts of 
poetry and rhetoric may be carried near to absolute per- 
fection, and may exercise a mighty influence on the public 
mind, in an age in which books are wholly or almost wholly 

So, too, in the rudest communities of Appa- 
lachia, among the most trifling and unmoral 
natives of this region, among the illiterate and 
hide-bound, there still is much to excite admira- 
tion and good hope. I have not shrunk from 
telling the truth about these people, even when 
it was far from pleasant; but I would have pre- 
served strict silence had I not seen in the most 
backward of them certain sterling qualities of 
manliness that our nation can ill afford to waste. 
It is a truth as old as the human race that sav- 


ageries may co-exist with admirable qualities of 
head and heart. The only people who can con- 
sistently despair of the future for even the low- 
est of our mountaineers are those who deny evo- 
lution and who believe, with Archbishop Usher, 
that man was created perfect at 9 A. M. on the 
2ist of October, in the year B. C. 4004. 

Let us remember. Sir and Madam, that we 
ourselves are descended from white barbarians. 
From William the Conqueror, you? Very well ; 
how many other ancestors of yours were walking 
about England and elsewhere at the time of 
William? Untold thousands of them were just 
such people as you can find to-day brawling in 
some mountain still-house (unless there has been 
a deal of incest somewhere along your line) , and 
you have infinitely more of their blood in your 
veins than you have of the Conqueror's — who, 
by the way, could he be re-incarnated, would 
not be tolerated in your drawing-room for half 
an hour. I may have made the point too bru- 
tally plain ; but if it sinks through the smug self- 
complacency of those who " do not belong to the 
masses," who act as though civilization and 
morals and good manners were entailed to them 
through a mere dozen or so of selected ancestors, 
I remain unrepentant and unashamed. Let us 


thank whatever gods there be that it is not 
merely thou and I, our few friends and next of 
kin, but all humanity, that scientific faith em- 
braces and will sustain. 

" People who have been among the southern 
mountaineers testify," says Mr. Fox, " that, as 
a race, they are proud, sensitive, hospitable, 
kindly, obliging in an unreckoning way that is 
almost pathetic, honest, loyal, in spite of their 
common ignorance, poverty, and isolation; that 
they are naturally capable, eager to learn, easy 
to uplift. Americans to the core, they make the 
southern mountains a storehouse of patriotism; 
in themselves they are an important offset to the 
Old World outcasts whom we have welcomed 
to our shores; and they surely deserve as much 
consideration from the nation as the negroes, or 
as the heathen, to whom we give millions." 

President Frost, of Berea College, who has 
worked among these people for nearly a life- 
time, and has helped to educate their young 
folks by thousands, says: " It does one's heart 
good to help a young Lincoln who comes walk- 
ing in perhaps a three-days' journey on foot, 
with a few hard-earned dollars in his pocket and 
a great eagerness for the education he can so 
faintly comprehend. (Scores of our young peo- 


pie see their first railroad train at Berea.) And 
it is a joy to welcome the mountain girl who 
comes back after having taught her first school, 
bringing the money to pay her debts and buy her 
first comfortable outfit — including rubbers and 
suitable underclothing — and perhaps bringing 
with her a younger sister. Such a girl exerts a 
great influence in her school and mountain 
home. An enthusiastic mountaineer described 
an example in this wise: ' I tell yeou hit teks 
a moughty resolute gal ter do what that thar 
gal has done. She got, I reckon, about the tough- 
est deestric' in the ceounty, which is sayin' a 
good deal. An' then fer boardin'-place — well, 
there warn't much choice. There was one house, 
with one room. But she kep right on, an' yeou 
would hev thought she was havin' the finest kind 
of a time, ter look at her. An' then the last day, 
when they was sayin' their pieces and sich, some 
sorry fellers come in thar full o' moonshine an' 
shot their revolvers. I'm a-tellin' ye hit takes a 
moughty resolute gal." 

The great need of our mountaineers to-day Is 
trained leaders of their own. The future of 
Appalachia lies mostly in the hands of those 
resolute native boys and girls who win the edu- 
cation fitting them for such leadership. Here 
is where the nation at large is summoned by a 


solemn duty. And it should act quickly, be- 
cause commercialism exploits and debauches 
quickly. But the schools needed here are not 
ordinary graded schools. They should be voca- 
tional schools that will turn out good farmers, 
good mechanics, good housewives. Meantime 
let a model farm be established in every moun- 
tain county showing how to get the most out of 
mountain land. Such object lessons would 
speedily work an economic revolution. It is 
an economic problem, fundamentally, that the 
mountaineer has to face.